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Administrative - Social Security - Benefits.

Byline: Mass. Lawyers Weekly Staff

Where a Social Security claimant challenged the denial of her application for benefits, affirmance of that denial was appropriate because (a) the objective medical evidence and the state agency opinions supported the finding by the administrative law judge about her residual functional capacity and (b) she proffered no evidence tying her alleged symptoms to additional limitations.

"After reviewing the record as a whole, the Court concludes that the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence and that the correct legal standard was applied. [Janet Lee] Caterino's complaint is essentially that the ALJ failed to include additional limitations in his determination of her RFC with respect to her arms and hands.

"While there is evidence that Caterino suffered pain and numbness in her arms and hands, the ALJ explained that there was also consistent objective medical evidence indicating that plaintiff had full motor strength and substantial range of movement in her arms and hands. Significantly, no treating physician stated that Caterino's pain and discomfort severely impaired the functioning of her arms and hands and the ALJ referred to specific evidence in support of his conclusion that Caterino's impairments were not as limiting as she indicated.

"Furthermore, the RFC assessments of the two state agency physicians were completely consistent with the objective medical evidence of the treating physicians and both indicated that Caterino could perform light work with some exertional and postural limitations. The ALJ was entitled to give significant weight to those opinions. Taken together, the medical evidence was reasonably sufficient to support the ALJ's RFC determination.

"With respect to the evidence of fibromyalgia, the Court finds that the ALJ appropriately took th[e] later diagnosis into account in assessing Caterino's RFC. Even assuming that the ALJ erred in not listing fibromyalgia as a severe impairment at step two of his analysis (even though the diagnosis occurred after the prescribed period and there was little objective evidence to tie that condition to plaintiff's previous impairments), that omission nevertheless constitutes harmless error because the ALJ found other severe impairments at that step and considered the cumulative effect of those impairments on Caterino's RFC.

"In conclusion, the burden is on the plaintiff to present sufficient evidence of how her alleged impairment limits her functional capacity. Caterino has proffered no evidence tying either her pain and numbness or her fibromyalgia to additional limitations on the functionality of her arms and hands beyond those already determined by the ALJ.

"The ALJ's determination that plaintiff can perform light work, including lifting and carrying no more than 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently, is supported by substantial medical evidence indicating that Caterino had full motor strength and a fair and painless range of motion in her upper extremities."

Caterino v. Berryhill (Lawyers Weekly No. 02-095-19) (19 pages) (Gorton, J.) (Civil Action No. 18-10069-NMG) (Feb. 7, 2019).

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Title Annotation:Caterino v. Berryhill, U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts
Publication:Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly
Date:Feb 18, 2019
Previous Article:Habeas corpus - Custody redetermination - Due process - Burden of proof.
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