Thomas P. v. Saul
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS recommending that Plaintiff's Motion to Reverse (ECF No. 16) be DENIED and that the Commissioner's Motion to Affirm (ECF No. 19) be GRANTED. Further recommending that Final Judgment enter in favor of Defendant. 19 MOTION to Affirm the Decision of the Commissioner filed by Kilolo Kijakazi. 16 First MOTION to Remand the Decision of the Commissioner WITH SUPPORTING MEMO filed by Thomas Joseph Perry, Jr. Objections to R&R due by 1/24/2022. So Ordered by Magistrate Judge Lincoln D. Almond on 1/10/2022. (Noel, Jeannine)
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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF RHODE ISLAND
KILOLO KIJAKAZI, Commissioner
Social Security Administration
C.A. No. 21-00020-WES
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
Lincoln D. Almond, United States Magistrate Judge
This matter is before the Court for judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of
the Social Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”)
under the Social Security Act (the “Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff filed his Complaint on January
12, 2021 seeking to reverse the Decision of the Commissioner. On September 24, 2021, Plaintiff filed
a Motion to Reverse with a Remand for a Rehearing of the Commissioner’s Final Decision. (ECF No.
16). On December 23, 2021, Defendant filed a Motion to Affirm the Acting Commissioner’s Decision.
(ECF No. 19). No Reply Brief was filed.
This matter has been referred to me for preliminary review, findings, and recommended
disposition. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); LR Cv 72. Based upon my review of the record, the parties’
submissions, and independent research, I find that there is substantial evidence in this record to support
the Commissioner’s decision and findings that Plaintiff is not disabled within the meaning of the Act.
Consequently, I recommend that Plaintiff’s Motion to Reverse (ECF No. 16) be DENIED and that the
Commissioner’s Motion to Affirm (ECF No. 19) be GRANTED.
Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on November 5, 2019 (Tr. 214-215) alleging disability
since April 18, 2011. His date last insured for DIB is June 30, 2014. (Tr. 18). The application was
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denied initially on November 19, 2019 (Tr. 117-124) and on reconsideration on January 2, 2020. (Tr.
126-132). On January 10, 2020, Plaintiff requested an Administrative Hearing. (Tr. 147). On June
12, 2020, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Paul Goodale (the “ALJ”) at which
time Plaintiff, represented by counsel, and a Vocational Expert (“VE”) appeared and testified. (Tr. 34103). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision to Plaintiff on September 2, 2020. (Tr. 12-28). The
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review of the ALJ’s decision on November 9, 2020.
(Tr. 1-3). Therefore, the ALJ’s decision became final, and this timely appeal follows.
THE PARTIES’ POSITIONS
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by failing to reopen his prior denied claims and by failing
to consider all the objective medical evidence and medical opinions.
The Commissioner disputes Plaintiff’s claims and contends that the ALJ constructively
reopened Plaintiff’s prior denied claims and that substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s finding that
Plaintiff was not disabled during the relevant period, i.e., April 8, 2011 through June 30, 2014.
THE STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Commissioner’s findings of fact are conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is more than a scintilla – i.e., the evidence must do more than
merely create a suspicion of the existence of a fact and must include such relevant evidence as a
reasonable person would accept as adequate to support the conclusion. Ortiz v. Sec’y of HHS, 955
F.2d 765, 769 (1st Cir. 1991) (per curiam); Rodriguez v. Sec’y of HHS, 647 F.2d 218, 222 (1st Cir.
Where the Commissioner’s decision is supported by substantial evidence, the court must
affirm, even if the court would have reached a contrary result as finder of fact. Rodriguez Pagan v.
Sec’y of HHS, 819 F.2d 1, 3 (1st Cir. 1987); Barnes v. Sullivan, 932 F.2d 1356, 1358 (11th Cir. 1991).
The court must view the evidence as a whole, taking into account evidence favorable as well as
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unfavorable to the decision. Frustaglia v. Sec’y of HHS, 829 F.2d 192, 195 (1st Cir. 1987); Parker v.
Bowen, 793 F.2d 1177 (11th Cir. 1986) (court also must consider evidence detracting from evidence
on which Commissioner relied).
The court must reverse the ALJ’s decision on plenary review, however, if the ALJ applies
incorrect law, or if the ALJ fails to provide the court with sufficient reasoning to determine that he or
she properly applied the law. Nguyen v. Chater, 172 F.3d 31, 35 (1st Cir. 1999) (per curiam); accord
Cornelius v. Sullivan, 936 F.2d 1143, 1145 (11th Cir. 1991). Remand is unnecessary where all of the
essential evidence was before the Appeals Council when it denied review, and the evidence establishes
without any doubt that the claimant was disabled. Seavey v. Barnhart, 276 F.3d 1, 11 (1st Cir. 2001)
citing, Mowery v. Heckler, 771 F.2d 966, 973 (6th Cir. 1985).
The court may remand a case to the Commissioner for a rehearing under sentence four of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); under sentence six of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); or under both sentences. Seavey, 276 F.3d
at 8. To remand under sentence four, the court must either find that the Commissioner’s decision is
not supported by substantial evidence, or that the Commissioner incorrectly applied the law relevant
to the disability claim. Id.; accord Brenem v. Harris, 621 F.2d 688, 690 (5th Cir. 1980) (remand
appropriate where record was insufficient to affirm, but also was insufficient for district court to find
Where the court cannot discern the basis for the Commissioner’s decision, a sentence-four
remand may be appropriate to allow her to explain the basis for her decision. Freeman v. Barnhart,
274 F.3d 606, 609-610 (1st Cir. 2001). On remand under sentence four, the ALJ should review the
case on a complete record, including any new material evidence. Diorio v. Heckler, 721 F.2d 726,
729 (11th Cir. 1983) (necessary for ALJ on remand to consider psychiatric report tendered to Appeals
Council). After a sentence four remand, the court enters a final and appealable judgment immediately,
and thus loses jurisdiction. Freeman, 274 F.3d at 610.
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In contrast, sentence six of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) provides:
The court...may at any time order additional evidence to be taken
before the Commissioner of Social Security, but only upon a showing
that there is new evidence which is material and that there is good cause
for the failure to incorporate such evidence into the record in a prior
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). To remand under sentence six, the claimant must establish: (1) that there is new,
non-cumulative evidence; (2) that the evidence is material, relevant and probative so that there is a
reasonable possibility that it would change the administrative result; and (3) there is good cause for
failure to submit the evidence at the administrative level. See Jackson v. Chater, 99 F.3d 1086, 10901092 (11th Cir. 1996).
A sentence six remand may be warranted, even in the absence of an error by the Commissioner,
if new, material evidence becomes available to the claimant. Id. With a sentence six remand, the
parties must return to the court after remand to file modified findings of fact. Id. The court retains
jurisdiction pending remand and does not enter a final judgment until after the completion of remand
The law defines disability as the inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of
any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months. 42
U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423(d)(1); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505. The impairment must be severe, making the
claimant unable to do her previous work, or any other substantial gainful activity which exists in the
national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505-404.1511.
For applications like this one, filed on or after March 27, 2017, the Administration has
fundamentally changed how adjudicators assess opinion evidence. The requirements that adjudicators
assign “controlling weight” to a well-supported treating source’s medical opinion that is consistent
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with other evidence, and, if controlling weight is not given, must state the specific weight that is
assigned – are gone. See Shaw v. Saul, No. 19-cv-730-LM, 2020 WL 3072072, *4-5 (D.N.H. June
10, 2020) citing Nicole C. v. Saul, Case No. cv 19-127JJM, 2020 WL 57727, at *4 (D.R.I. Jan. 6,
2020) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520c(a)). Under the newly applicable regulations, an ALJ does not
assign specific evidentiary weight to any medical opinion and does not defer to the opinion of any
medical source (including the claimant’s treating providers). 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520c(a), 416.920c(a).
Instead, the ALJ evaluates the relative persuasiveness of the medical evidence in terms of five specified
The five factors the ALJ considers in evaluating the persuasiveness of a medical opinion are
supportability (the relevance of the opinion’s cited objective medical evidence), consistency (how
consistent the opinion is with all of the evidence from medical and non-medical sources),
treatment/examining relationship (including length of treatment relationship, frequency of
examinations, purpose of treatment relationship, and existence and extent of treatment/examining
relationship), specialization (the relevance of the source’s specialized education or training to the
claimant’s condition), and what the Administration refers to as “other factors” (the medical source’s
familiarity with the claimant’s medical record as a whole and/or with the Administration’s policies or
evidentiary requirements). Shaw, 2020 WL 3072072 at *4 citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520c(c)(1)-(5),
416.920c(c)(1)-(5) (emphasis supplied). Of the five factors, the “most important” are supportability
and consistency. Id. §§ 404.1520c(a), 404.1520c(b)(2), 416.920c(a), 416.920c(b)(2).
While the ALJ must consider all five of the factors in evaluating the persuasiveness of medical
evidence, when preparing the written decision the ALJ is, in most cases, only required to discuss
application of the supportability and consistency factors. Id. §§ 404.1520c(b)(2), 416.920c(b)(2).
Only where contrary medical opinions are equally persuasive in terms of both supportability and
consistency is the ALJ required to discuss their relative persuasiveness in terms of the
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treatment/examining relationship, specialization, and other factors.
Id. §§ 404.1520c(b)(3),
416.920c(b)(3). In addition, where a single medical source offers multiple opinions, the ALJ is not
required to discuss each opinion individually, but instead may address all of the source’s opinions
“together in a single analysis.” Id. §§ 404.1520c(b)(1), 416.920c(b)(1).
Moreover, while the ALJ must consider all of the relevant evidence in the record, id. §§
404.1520b(a)-(b), 416.920b(a)-(b), the ALJ need not discuss evidence from nonmedical sources,
including, e.g., the claimant, the claimant’s friends and family, educational personnel, and social
welfare agency personnel. Id. §§ 404.1502(e), 404.1520c(d), 416.902(j), 416.920c(d). And while the
regulations require the ALJ to discuss the relative persuasiveness of all medical source evidence, id.
§§ 404.1520c(b), 416.920c(b), the claimant’s impairments must be established specifically by
evidence from an acceptable medical source, id. §§ 404.1521, 416.921.
“Acceptable medical sources” are limited to physicians and psychologists, and (within their
areas of specialization or practice) to optometrists, podiatrists, audiologists, advanced practice
registered nurses, physician assistants, and speech pathologists. Id. §§ 404.1502(a), 416.902(a).
Evidence from other medical sources, such as licensed social workers or chiropractors, is insufficient
to establish the existence or severity of a claimant’s impairments. Id. Finally, the ALJ need not discuss
evidence that is “inherently neither valuable nor persuasive,” including decisions by other
governmental agencies or nongovernmental entities, findings made by state disability examiners at any
previous level of adjudication, and statements by medical sources as to any issue reserved to the
Commissioner. Id. §§ 404.1520b(c), 416.920b(c).
Developing the Record
The ALJ has a duty to fully and fairly develop the record. Heggarty v. Sullivan, 947 F.2d 990,
997 (1st Cir. 1991). The Commissioner also has a duty to notify a claimant of the statutory right to
retained counsel at the social security hearing, and to solicit a knowing and voluntary waiver of that
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right if counsel is not retained. See 42 U.S.C. § 406; Evangelista v. Sec’y of HHS, 826 F.2d 136, 142
(1st Cir. 1987). The obligation to fully and fairly develop the record exists if a claimant has waived
the right to retained counsel, and even if the claimant is represented by counsel. Id. However, where
an unrepresented claimant has not waived the right to retained counsel, the ALJ’s obligation to develop
a full and fair record rises to a special duty. See Heggarty, 947 F.2d at 997, citing Currier v. Sec’y of
Health Educ. and Welfare, 612 F.2d 594, 598 (1st Cir. 1980).
Medical Tests and Examinations
The ALJ is required to order additional medical tests and exams only when a claimant’s
medical sources do not give sufficient medical evidence about an impairment to determine whether
the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.917; see also Conley v. Bowen, 781 F.2d 143, 146 (8th Cir.
1986). In fulfilling his duty to conduct a full and fair inquiry, the ALJ is not required to order a
consultative examination unless the record establishes that such an examination is necessary to enable
the ALJ to render an informed decision. Carrillo Marin v. Sec’y of HHS, 758 F.2d 14, 17 (1st Cir.
The Five-step Evaluation
The ALJ must follow five steps in evaluating a claim of disability. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,
416.920. First, if a claimant is working at a substantial gainful activity, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(b). Second, if a claimant does not have any impairment or combination of impairments
which significantly limit her physical or mental ability to do basic work activities, then she does not
have a severe impairment and is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). Third, if a claimant’s
impairments meet or equal an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, she is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). Fourth, if a claimant’s impairments do not prevent her from doing
past relevant work, she is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e). Fifth, if a claimant’s impairments
(considering her residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work) prevent her from doing
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other work that exists in the national economy, then she is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f).
Significantly, the claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through four, but the Commissioner
bears the burden at step five. Wells v. Barnhart, 267 F. Supp. 2d 138, 144 (D. Mass. 2003) (five-step
process applies to both SSDI and SSI claims).
In determining whether a claimant’s physical and mental impairments are sufficiently severe,
the ALJ must consider the combined effect of all of the claimant’s impairments and must consider any
medically severe combination of impairments throughout the disability determination process. 42
U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(B). Accordingly, the ALJ must make specific and well-articulated findings as to
the effect of a combination of impairments when determining whether an individual is disabled. Davis
v. Shalala, 985 F.2d 528, 534 (11th Cir. 1993).
The claimant bears the ultimate burden of proving the existence of a disability as defined by
the Social Security Act. Seavey, 276 F.3d at 5. The claimant must prove disability on or before the
last day of her insured status for the purposes of disability benefits. Deblois v. Sec’y of HHS, 686
F.2d 76 (1st Cir. 1982), 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i)(3), 423(a), (c). If a claimant becomes disabled after she
has lost insured status, her claim for disability benefits must be denied despite her disability. Id.
Once the ALJ finds that a claimant cannot return to her prior work, the burden of proof shifts
to the Commissioner to establish that the claimant could perform other work that exists in the national
economy. Seavey, 276 F.3d at 5. In determining whether the Commissioner has met this burden, the
ALJ must develop a full record regarding the vocational opportunities available to a claimant. Allen
v. Sullivan, 880 F.2d 1200, 1201 (11th Cir. 1989). This burden may sometimes be met through
exclusive reliance on the Medical-Vocational Guidelines (the “grids”). Seavey, 276 F.3d at 5.
Exclusive reliance on the “grids” is appropriate where the claimant suffers primarily from an exertional
impairment, without significant non-exertional factors. Id.; see also Heckler v. Campbell, 461 U.S.
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458 (1983) (exclusive reliance on the grids is appropriate in cases involving only exertional
impairments, impairments which place limits on an individual’s ability to meet job strength
Exclusive reliance is not appropriate when a claimant is unable to perform a full range of work
at a given residual functional level or when a claimant has a non-exertional impairment that
significantly limits basic work skills. Nguyen, 172 F.3d at 36. In almost all of such cases, the
Commissioner’s burden can be met only through the use of a vocational expert. Heggarty, 947 F.2d
at 996. It is only when the claimant can clearly do unlimited types of work at a given residual
functional level that it is unnecessary to call a vocational expert to establish whether the claimant can
perform work which exists in the national economy. See Ferguson v. Schweiker, 641 F.2d 243, 248
(5th Cir. 1981). In any event, the ALJ must make a specific finding as to whether the non-exertional
limitations are severe enough to preclude a wide range of employment at the given work capacity level
indicated by the exertional limitations.
“Pain can constitute a significant non-exertional impairment.” Nguyen, 172 F.3d at 36.
Congress has determined that a claimant will not be considered disabled unless he furnishes medical
and other evidence (e.g., medical signs and laboratory findings) showing the existence of a medical
impairment which could reasonably be expected to produce the pain or symptoms alleged. 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(5)(A). The ALJ must consider all of a claimant’s statements about his symptoms, including
pain, and determine the extent to which the symptoms can reasonably be accepted as consistent with
the objective medical evidence.
SSR 16-3p, 2017 WL 4790249, at *49462; 20 C.F.R. §
404.1529(c)(3). In determining whether the medical signs and laboratory findings show medical
impairments which reasonably could be expected to produce the pain alleged, the ALJ must apply the
First Circuit’s six-part pain analysis and consider the following factors:
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The nature, location, onset, duration, frequency, radiation, and
intensity of any pain;
Precipitating and aggravating factors (e.g., movement, activity,
Type, dosage, effectiveness, and adverse side-effects of any
Treatment, other than medication, for relief of pain;
Functional restrictions; and
The claimant’s daily activities.
Avery v. Sec’y of HHS, 797 F.2d 19, 29 (1st Cir. 1986). An individual’s statement as to pain is not,
by itself, conclusive of disability. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(5)(A). However, the individual’s statements
about the intensity, persistence, and limited effects of symptoms may not be disregarded “solely
because the objective medical evidence does not substantiate the degree of impairment-related
symptoms.” SSR 16-3p, 2017 WL 4790249, at *49465.
Where an ALJ decides not to credit a claimant’s testimony about pain, the ALJ must articulate
specific and adequate reasons for doing so, or the record must be obvious as to the credibility finding.
Rohrberg, 26 F. Supp. 2d at 309. A reviewing court will not disturb a clearly articulated credibility
finding with substantial supporting evidence in the record. See Frustaglia, 829 F.2d at 195. The failure
to articulate the reasons for discrediting subjective pain testimony requires that the testimony be
accepted as true. See DaRosa v. Sec’y of Health and Human Servs., 803 F.2d 24 (1st Cir. 1986).
A lack of a sufficiently explicit credibility finding becomes a ground for remand when
credibility is critical to the outcome of the case. See Smallwood v. Schweiker, 681 F.2d 1349, 1352
(11th Cir. 1982). If proof of disability is based on subjective evidence and a credibility determination
is, therefore, critical to the decision, “the ALJ must either explicitly discredit such testimony or the
implication must be so clear as to amount to a specific credibility finding.” Foote v. Chater, 67 F.3d
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1553, 1562 (11th Cir. 1995) (quoting Tieniber v. Heckler, 720 F.2d 1251, 1255 (11th Cir. 1983)).
Guidance in evaluating the claimant’s statements regarding the intensity, persistence, and limiting
effects of subjective symptoms is provided by SSR 16-3p, 2017 WL 4790249, at *49462 (Oct. 25,
2017). It directs the ALJ to consider the entire case record, including the objective medical evidence;
an individual’s statements about the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of symptoms;
statements and other information provided by medical sources and other persons; any other relevant
evidence; and whether statements about the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of symptoms
are consistent with the medical signs and laboratory findings. SSR 16-3p, 2017 WL 4790249, at
APPLICATION AND ANALYSIS
The Commissioner’s Decision
By way of background, Plaintiff is currently fifty years old. This is a DIB case, and Plaintiff
was forty-two years old when his insured status for DIB expired on June 30, 2014. He is a veteran
who served from 1990 to 1993, and he currently receives VA service-connected disability benefits. He
worked as a construction equipment mechanic until April 2011 which he alleges to be his disability
onset date. He alleges that he is “disabled primarily by his physical impairments.” (ECF No. 16-1 at
This is Plaintiff’s third attempt to obtain Social Security disability benefits for the period dating
back to April 2011. His first DIB application was filed on May 18, 2011 and denied on January 31,
2012 with no appeal taken. (Tr. 15, n. 1). His second application was filed on January 21, 2016 (Tr.
115) and denied on March 31, 2016 with no appeal taken. (Tr. 133). His third application was filed
in 2019 and resulted in the instant appeal.
The ALJ decided this case adverse to Plaintiff at Step 5. At Step 2, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff’s back impairments, neuropathy, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorder were
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“severe” impairments within the meaning of the applicable regulations. He assessed an RFC for a
significantly limited range of light work. Based on this RFC and testimony from the VE, the ALJ
concluded at Step 4 that Plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work as a mechanic. However,
at Step 5, he found that Plaintiff was not disabled during the relevant period because he was capable
of performing other unskilled light and sedentary jobs available in the economy.
The Request to Reopen
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ committed reversible error by denying his request to reopen the
prior adjudicated claims. However, at the same time, he asserts that, “[b]y reconsidering the record
evidence, gnashing it about and finding a different RFC, the ALJ reconsidered the prior claim on its
merits and constructively reopened it.” (ECF No. 16-1 at p. 8). By this statement, Plaintiff effectively
concedes that his claim of error was mooted by the constructive reopening.
Since the 2019 application concerns the same closed period of disability as the prior denied
claims, the ALJ could have denied Plaintiff’s request for a hearing based on administrative res judicata
grounds. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.957(c)(1). However, he did not do that. Rather, the ALJ held a full
administrative hearing and issued a decision on the merits that Plaintiff was not disabled for the entire
relevant period. The record is clear that the ALJ constructively reopened the prior claims. See Morey
v. Colvin, C.A. No. 14-433M, 2015 WL 9855873 at *12 (D.R.I. Oct. 5, 2015). Thus, any claimed
error in this regard is harmless.
The ALJ’s Review of the Record
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by failing to properly consider objective medical evidence
supporting his allegations of disabling pain including specifically a June 22, 2012 CT scan of his back.
He also argues that the ALJ erred by failing to properly consider a Compensation and Pension (“C&P”)
examination conducted by the VA on July 30, 2013. Plaintiff also argues that “[w]hen determining a
veteran’s eligibility for Social Security disability benefits, a tie or even a close call should go to the
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veteran.” (ECF No. 16-1 at p. 18). While I agree that veterans are owed a debt of gratitude for their
service, Plaintiff provides no legal authority for this proposed “tie goes to the veteran” standard of
review. Accordingly, the Court is compelled by the law and will apply the statutory “substantial
evidence” standard of review to the ALJ’s Decision. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
First, as to the June 2012 CT scan (Tr. 975-976), it is true that the ALJ does not specifically
discuss this particular piece of evidence in his Decision. However, it was reviewed and discussed by
Dr. Mahoney and Dr. Purins in 2019 and both opined, based on a review of that CT scan and other
medical evidence of record, that Plaintiff could perform light work with additional physical limitations.
(Tr. 121-123, 130-131). The ALJ adopted those same basic limitations in his RFC finding. (Tr. 21).
Accordingly, the ALJ’s failure to explicitly discuss the CT scan is harmless since it was considered by
the State agency physicians in formulating their RFC opinions and constitutes substantial evidence
supporting the ALJ’s contested RFC finding. See Vanessa C. v. Kijakazi, C.A. No. 20-363MSM, 2021
WL 3930347 at *6 (D.R.I. Sept. 2, 2021) (“[T]he ALJ’s omission from his decision of bipolar and
panic disorder is harmless because the state-agency psychologists did not overlook those diagnoses in
formulating their PRT opinions.”).
Second and similarly, as to the July 2013 C&P examination performed by Nurse Practitioner
Oseghale (Tr. 627-647), that examination report was reviewed by the State agency physicians in
formulating the RFC opinions discussed above. (Tr. 123). Thus, any error by the ALJ in specifically
discussing this report is also harmless. Additionally, Dr. Purins considered the medical record as of
December of 2019, including this report, and his subsequent RFC opinion actually found Plaintiff to
be somewhat less limited by his physical impairments than Dr. Mahoney and the ALJ had. (Tr. 130131). Again, the ALJ had ample record support for his RFC finding. Moreover, there is nothing in
Mr. Oseghale’s report which directly contradicts the ALJ’s RFC finding. He stated that Plaintiff’s
impairments would limit “prolonged sitting, standing, walking, repetitive bending, and lifting and
carrying.” (Tr. 636, 646). Those observations are actually consistent with the ALJ’s RFC assessment
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that Plaintiff was limited to a range of light work and restricted in all of those functional areas. (Tr.
20-21). Plaintiff argues that Mr. Oseghale’s report belies the ALJ’s statements that Plaintiff had failed
to provide a “precise functional assessment, completed by a physician to support [his] subjective
physical complaints or to contradict the findings of the State agency physician.” (Tr. 24). However,
it is undisputed that Mr. Oseghale is a Nurse Practitioner and not a physician. And, more to the point,
the report provides general and not “precise” functional limitations and simply does not directly
contradict either the RFC findings of either the State agency physicians or the ALJ.
Ultimately, Plaintiff’s challenge to the ALJ’s evaluation of the record in this case
inappropriately asks this Court to reweigh the evidence in a manner more favorable to him. See, e.g.,
Seavey v. Barnhart, 276 F.3d 1, 10 (1st Cir. 2001) (the ALJ is responsible for weighing the evidence
and resolving conflicts). “The ALJ’s resolution of evidentiary conflicts must be upheld if supported
by substantial evidence, even if contrary results might have been tenable also.” Benetti v. Barnhart,
193 Fed. Appx. 6, 2006 WL 255972 (1st Cir. Sept. 6, 2006) (per curiam) (citing Rodriguez Pagan v.
Sec’y of HHS, 819 F.2d 1 (1st Cir. 1987)). In other words, the issue presented is not whether this Court
would have rendered a disability finding reviewing this record de novo but rather whether the record
contains substantial evidence sufficient to support the ALJ’s findings. Since Plaintiff has shown no
error in the ALJ’s evaluation of the medical evidence or in his ultimate findings, and those findings
are adequately supported by the record, the ALJ’s decision must be affirmed.
For the reasons discussed herein, I recommend that Plaintiff’s Motion to Reverse (ECF No.
16) be DENIED and that the Commissioner’s Motion to Affirm (ECF No. 19) be GRANTED. I further
recommend that Final Judgment enter in favor of Defendant.
Any objection to this Report and Recommendation must be specific and must be filed with the
Clerk of the Court within fourteen days of its receipt. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b); LR Cv 72. Failure to
Case 1:21-cv-00020-WES-LDA Document 21 Filed 01/10/22 Page 15 of 15 PageID #: 1287
file specific objections in a timely manner constitutes waiver of the right to review by the District Court
and the right to appeal the District Court’s decision. See United States v. Valencia-Copete, 792 F.2d
4, 6 (1st Cir. 1986); Park Motor Mart, Inc. v. Ford Motor Co., 616 F.2d 603, 605 (1st Cir. 1980).
/s/ Lincoln D. Almond
LINCOLN D. ALMOND
United States Magistrate Judge
January 10, 2022
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