Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Vasquez v. Saul

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

October 25, 2019

MENORCA VASQUEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          ORDER AND MEMORANDUM PLAINTIFF'S MOTION FOR AN ORDER REVERSING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION AND THE COMMISSIONER'S MOTION TO AFFIRM THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION (Docket Nos. 22 & 25)

          TIMOTHY S. HILLMAN DISTRICT JUDGE

         This is an action for judicial review of a final decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the “Commissioner” or “SSA”) denying the application of Menorca Vasquez (“Plaintiff”) for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). Plaintiff filed a motion for an order reversing this decision (Docket No. 22). The Commissioner filed a cross-motion seeking affirmance (Docket No. 25). For the reasons below, the Court grants the Commissioner's motion and denies Plaintiff's motion.

         Background

         The parties are familiar with the factual history of this case and the applicable five-step sequential analysis. Accordingly, the court will review the procedural and substantive history of the case as it relates to the arguments set forth by the Plaintiff.

         Plaintiff filed for disability benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act in August 2015, alleging that she became disabled on December 12, 2013, due to back problems, depression, and arthritis in her back, hands, and knees. (AR[1] 262-81, 286). The Social Security Administration denied her claim at the initial and reconsideration levels. (AR 90-118, 119-50). Plaintiff requested and received an administrative hearing. (AR 44-63). Following this hearing, Administrative Law Judge Todd S. Holbrook (“ALJ”) concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled because she had the residual functional capacity to perform her past relevant work. (AR 9-38). The Appeals Council denied review, and ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. (AR 1-7).

         The ALJ's Findings

         At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 12, 2013, her alleged onset date. (AR 18). At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, mild arthritis in the hands, depression, and anxiety. (AR 18). At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal any of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (AR 18-20). Next, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), except that

[C]laimant can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. The claimant can tolerate frequent exposure to hazards such as unprotected heights and moving mechanical parts. The claimant was limited to performing simple, routine tasks. The claimant could tolerate occasional interaction with the public. She was unable to speak, read, or write in English.

(AR 20). At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled because she could perform her past relevant work as machine presser. (AR 30). Alternatively, at step five, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled because she could perform a significant number of other jobs, e.g., bagger in laundry industry, bench assembler, and cafeteria attendant. (AR 31).

         Standard of Review

         This Court may not disturb the Commissioner's decision if it is grounded in substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g); 1383(c)(3). Substantial evidence exists when there is enough evidence that a reasonable person could agree with the Commissioner's conclusion. Rodriguez v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 647 F.2d 218, 222 (1st Cir. 1981). Thus, this Court must uphold the Commissioner's findings “if a reasonable mind, reviewing the evidence in the record as a whole, could accept it as adequate to support his conclusion, ” even if the administrative record could support multiple conclusions. Ortiz v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 955 F.2d 765, 769 (1st Cir. 1991) (quoting Rodriguez, 647 F.2d at 222).

         Discussion

         Plaintiff argues that substantial evidence supports her claim of disability. (Docket No. 22 at 13-15). But the relevant question on appeal is not whether substantial evidence supports Plaintiff's allegations; it is whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's determination. See § 405(g) (noting that the Commissioner's findings “as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive”). And under that standard, the Court must affirm the Commissioner's findings if “a reasonable mind, reviewing the evidence in the record as a whole, could accept it as adequate to support his conclusion.” Rodriguez, 647 F.2d at 222.

         Here, the ALJ determined Plaintiff could perform light work with limitations on climbing ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; balancing; stooping; kneeling; crouching; and crawling. (AR 20). The ALJ also found that Plaintiff could tolerate only occasional interaction with the public and could perform simple, routine tasks. (AR 20). Plaintiff contends that substantial evidence does not support the finding that she could perform light work because no physician suggested she could stand and walk 6 hours a day or lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. (Docket No. 22 at 17). But Drs. Hom, Perlman, Kleinman, and Coka, [2] state agency physicians, opined that Plaintiff could meet these requirements (AR 97-98, 111, 128, 143), and the medical records support their opinions, see SSR 96-6P (explaining that state agency opinions are given weight only to the extent they are supported by evidence in the record). For example, several specialists noted that, despite her reports of pain in her lower back and muscle weakness in her legs, Plaintiff was not in acute distress and had normal strength, reflexes, ambulation, and gait. (AR 431, 433, 474, 522, 529, 553, 558, 562, 566, 570, 597, 600, 662, 673, 700, 776, 951, 1125, 1310, 1350). Plaintiff's EAEDC ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.