United States District Court, D. Connecticut
DAVID V. COOMBS, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting COMMISSIONER OF Social Security, Defendant.
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S
W. THOMPSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
David V. Coombs appeals the Commissioner's final decision
denying the plaintiff's application for disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”) pursuant to sections
205(g) and 1631(c)(3) of the Social Security Act
(“Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
plaintiff filed a motion for reversal or remand, contending
that the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred
(1) by giving great weight to the opinions of Nurse
Practitioner Lisa DeCarlo; (2) by failing to consider Dr.
Russell Phillips's agency consultant opinions and
reconciling them with the inconsistencies in Nurse
Practitioner DeCarlo's opinions; (3)by giving great
weight to portions of the state agency assessments of Carl
Bancoff, MD, Susan Gonzalez, Lois Wurzel, MD, and Erika
Cieslak; (4) by not supporting the RFC non-exertional
findings with substantial evidence; and (5) by finding that
the plaintiff could frequently finger and handle. Pl.'s
Mem. to Reverse (“ECF No. 22-1”) at 4-12.
Commissioner filed a motion for an order affirming the
Commissioner's decision, maintaining that the plaintiff
“failed to demonstrate any significant error of fact or
law” and that “the ALJ's findings are
supported by substantial evidence.” Def.'s Mot. to
Affirm (“ECF No. 23”) at 9.
reasons set forth below, the court concludes that any error
in the application of the legal standard was harmless and
that the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial
evidence. Thus, the Commissioner's final decision is
district court reviewing a final  decision . . . [of the
Commissioner of Social Security] pursuant to section 205(g)
of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C § 405(g), is
performing an appellate function.” Zambrana v.
Califano, 651 F.2d 842, 844 (2d Cir. 1981). The court
may not make a de novo determination of whether a plaintiff
is disabled in reviewing a denial of disability benefits.
See Wagner v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 906 F.2d 856, 860 (2d Cir. 1990). Rather, the
court's function is to ascertain whether the Commissioner
applied the correct legal principles in reaching a conclusion
and whether the decision is supported by substantial
evidence. See Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d 983, 985
(2d Cir. 1987). Substantial evidence is “‘such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.'” Williams v.
Bowen, 859 F.2d 255, 258 (2d Cir. 1988) (quoting
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)).
Substantial evidence must be “more than a mere
scintilla or touch of proof here and there in the
record.” Williams, 859 F.2d at 258. Absent
legal error, this court may not set aside the decision of the
Commissioner if it is supported by substantial evidence.
See Berry v. Schweiker, 675 F.2d 464, 467 (2d Cir.
1982); 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)(“The findings of the
Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported
by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive . . . .”).
Thus, if the Commissioner's decision is supported by
substantial evidence, that decision will be sustained, even
where there may also be substantial evidence to support the
plaintiff's contrary position. See Schauer v.
Schweiker, 675 F.2d 55, 57 (2d Cir. 1982).
Nurse Practitioner DeCarlo's Medical Source
plaintiff contends that “the ALJ erred in giving great
weight” to Nurse Practitioner DeCarlo's
opinions” as reflected in the medical impairment
questionnaire dated March 20, 2015, because she was
“not an acceptable medical source, does not practice in
the field of behavioral health, had no behavioral health
treatment relationship with the plaintiff, . . . did not
begin primary care treatment of the plaintiff until more than
two years after the date last insured” and her
“findings . . . are inconsistent with the records for
contemporaneous behavioral health treatment that the
plaintiff was receiving from UCFS in 2015, which records
reflect little to no improvement in the plaintiff's
chronic symptoms related to anxiety and depression (Tr.
1248-1300).” ECF No. 22-1 at 4-5.
defendant maintains that “[t]he ALJ reasonably and
correctly assigned ‘great weight' to the medical
assessment from treating Nurse Practitioner DeCarlo”.
ECF No. 23 at 4.
issue, the Social Security Administration has noted the
In addition to evidence from “acceptable medical
sources, ” we may use evidence from “other
sources” . . . to show the severity of the
individual's impairment(s) and how it affects the
individual's ability to function. These sources include,
but are not limited to . . . [m]edical sources who
are not “acceptable medical sources, ” such as
nurse practitioners . . . . [T]he Act requires us to consider
all of the available evidence in the individual's case
record in every case. . . . In addition, when an adjudicator
determines that an ...