United States District Court, D. Massachusetts
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
Talwani United States District Judge.
Maria Negron, proceeding pro se, seeks reversal of
the decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration denying her Social Security disability
benefits for the years 2014 to 2017. Compl. [#1]; Mot. Order
Reversing Decision Comm'r [#21]. Defendant, Acting
Commissioner Nancy A. Berryhill, asks this court to affirm
the decision. Mot. Order Affirming Decision Comm'r [#26].
Because Plaintiff previously sought, and was denied, review
by the Appeals Council, the decision of the Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”) is the final decision of the
Commissioner. See Notice of Appeals Council Action,
Social Security Administration Record of Proceedings
(“Rec.”) 2 [#15-2].
motion for review of a final decision of the Commissioner, a
district court may enter “a judgment affirming,
modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a
rehearing.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). A court may not
disturb the Commissioner's findings where they are
supported by substantial evidence and the Commissioner has
applied the correct legal standard. Ward v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 211 F.3d 652, 655 (1st Cir. 2000). Evidence
is substantial where “a reasonable mind, reviewing the
evidence in the record as a whole, could accept it as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Rodriguez v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 647 F.2d 218,
222 (1st Cir. 1981). A district court may review the ALJ
decision “solely on the evidence presented to the ALJ,
” Mills v. Apfel, 244 F.3d 1, 5 (1st Cir.
2001). The court may also remand the case for further
proceedings and order that the evidence be added to the
record upon a finding that new evidence is material and there
is good cause for failure to incorporate such evidence into
the record previously. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). However,
remand is only appropriate when the court determines that
“further evidence is necessary to develop the facts of
the case fully, that such evidence is not cumulative, and
that consideration of it is essential to a fair
hearing.” Evangelista v. Sec'y of Health &
Human Servs., 826 F.2d 136, 139 (1st Cir. 1987).
Negron filed a Title II application for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits on June 16,
2014. See ALJ Hearing Decision, Rec. 9 [#15-2]. The
claim was denied initially in August 2014, and again upon
reconsideration in November 2014. Id. Ms. Negron
requested a hearing, which was held before an ALJ on December
1, 2015. Id. The ALJ issued his decision on January
28, 2016. Id. at 21 [#15-2]. Ms. Negron subsequently
sought review of the ALJ's decision from the Appeals
Council. See Notice of Appeals Council Action, Rec.
1 [#15-2]. The Appeals Council denied her request for review
on August 15, 2017. Id. at 3-5. Subsequently, Ms.
Negron filed a complaint in this court on October 12, 2017.
Motion for Order Reversing Decision of Commissioner
[#21-1], Plaintiff requests that the court reconsider her
medical evidence, arguing that “[u]nder the SSA
guidelines I have the following musculoskeletal problems,
neurological disorders, and mental disorders, ” which
makes it difficult to function “the way I was able to
do in the [past].” Id. at 2. She also states
that she incorrectly filled out her Social Security
questionnaire, and that questionnaires filled out by her
mental health provider and primary physician were not
provided prior to Plaintiff's hearing before the ALJ.
Id. at 1.
Negron further argues, in her Response to Defendant's
Motion for Order Affirming Decision of Commissioner
[#30], that the ALJ's decision is not supported by
substantial evidence, and the ALJ wrongfully found that she
did not have an impairment that meets 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appx. 1. She states that she has ongoing symptoms
of chronic neck, back, arm, and joint pain, along with
tingling, numbness, and weakness of limbs, as well as
depression, poor concentration, and panic attacks, and that
she suffers from chronic fatigue and fibromyalgia. Ms. Negron
argues in her Response that her impairments are listed in the
regulations (in sections relating to the musculoskeletal
system, neurological disorders, mental disorders, and immune
system disorders). Ms. Negron also asserts that the ALJ
relied upon a vocational expert who failed to consider all
physical requirements needed to perform certain jobs. Resp.
to Def. Mot. Order Affirming Decision Comm'r 2 [#30]. In
support, Ms. Negron submitted to the court various exhibits.
See generally, Exs. [#30-1].
Ms. Negron requests review of the ALJ's decision and
offers new evidence, the court will treat her Motion for
Order Reversing Decision of Commissioner as both a
motion for review of the Commissioner's decision and a
motion to remand for consideration of new evidence.
Motion for Review of a Final Decision of the
analyzing Ms. Negron's motion first as a motion for
review of a final decision, the court considers only the
evidence that is in the record. “Judicial review of a
Social Security claim is limited to determining whether the
ALJ used the proper legal standards and found facts upon the
proper quantum of evidence.” Ward v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 211 F.3d 652, 655 (1st Cir. 2000).
determine whether an individual is disabled, the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) goes through a
five-step sequential evaluation process. Here, at step one,
the ALJ found that Ms. Negron had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since June 18, 2014, the alleged onset date.
See ALJ Hearing Decision, Rec. 11 [#15-2]. At step
two, the ALJ considered whether Ms. Negron has a
‘“medically determinable impairment' that is
‘severe' or a combination of impairments that is
‘severe.'” Id. at 10. The ALJ found
that Ms. Negron suffered from several severe mental and
physical impairments, including bilateral symptoms of carpal
tunnel syndrome, “possible” radiculopathy,
dysthymic disorder, panic disorder, attention
deficit-hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”), and
cannabis abuse. Id. at 11. ...