above mentioned medical reports concerning Patterson's physical condition and testimony from Patterson who was represented by counsel.
Patterson testified that her work at Sloan Kettering consisted of typing, filing, answering the telephones and acting as a receptionist. Tr. at 36. Moreover, when asked by the ALJ whether she was a secretary or an office clerk, Patterson testified that she was a secretary. Id. After working eleven years at Sloan Kettering, Patterson further stated that her employer told her that she would have to learn to use a computer, and sent her to a computer class. Tr. at 49. Because Patterson's eyes teared repeatedly and she suffered headaches behind her eyes, she was unable to keep up with the pace of the class, and did not complete the course. Tr. at 49-50. Furthermore, Patterson stated that she began to receive poor evaluations at work and made mistakes in her typing due to her poor vision. Tr. at 50.
Patterson testified that her afflictions have never required hospitalization. Tr. at 37. However, she stated that she did go to the emergency room six or seven times between May 1992, and April 1994, because of shoulder pain and situations where she could not see anything other than black spots. Id. Patterson further stated that she has visited doctors about eight times over this same two year period for her eyes and asthma, that they have given her oxygen for her severe asthma flare ups which occur about twice a week, and that if she could not make it to the emergency room, she would drink water and sit up with a pillow behind her back. Id. Patterson estimated that she can remain seated for one hour and a half, can remain standing for an hour at a time, can walk a maximum of eight blocks, that bending is a problem because of her sore knees and shoulders, and estimated that she can lift twenty-five pounds or the contents of her shopping cart. Tr. at 42. However, when examined by her attorney, Patterson testified that she would not be able to repeatedly lift certain large file folders at Sloan Kettering, which weigh approximately eight pounds each. Tr. at 48. Patterson stated that she performs a full range of household chores, does volunteer work two days a week by serving coffee and reading the newspaper to nursing home residents, and has looked for work since May 1992, but has been repeatedly turned down because of her poor vision. Tr. at 43-44.
On May 25, 1994, the ALJ rendered an unfavorable decision to Patterson finding her not to be under a disability as defined in the Social Security Act, at any time through the date of his decision. Tr. at 20. Specifically, the ALJ stated that "the claimant cannot return to her last job, because of the use of a computer requirement, which she is unable to fulfill, but claimant can still do general clerical work where the use of a computer would not be necessary." Tr. at 19. On June 15, 1994, Patterson filed for a review of the ALJ's unfavorable decision. Tr. at 10. Patterson provided the Appeals Council with an additional medical evaluation;
however, her appeal was denied on October 28, 1994. Tr. at 3, 10.
On October 17, 1994, Patterson filed the instant action alleging that she became disabled and unable to perform any work due to impaired vision, headaches, asthma and arthritic pain as of May 29, 1992, and that the ALJ's decision denying social security disability benefits was not supported by substantial evidence and was contrary to law and regulation. Pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c), the parties cross-move for judgment on the pleadings.
The findings of the Commissioner as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, are conclusive. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (1991); Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 28 L. Ed. 2d 842, 91 S. Ct. 1420 (1971); Rutherford v. Schweiker, 685 F.2d 60, 62 (2d Cir. 1982); see also Rivera v. Harris, 623 F.2d 212, 216 (2d Cir. 1980). Substantial evidence has been defined as "'more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401, quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229, 83 L. Ed. 126, 59 S. Ct. 206 (1938). If a court finds that there is substantial evidence supporting the Commissioner's decision, the decision must be upheld, even if there is also substantial evidence for the plaintiff's position. See Alston v. Sullivan, 904 F.2d 122, 126 (2d Cir. 1990).
In order to be found disabled, a claimant must be unable 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. See 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1) (1991); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527 (1996). The Second Circuit has summarized the Commissioner's five-step sequential evaluation process for evaluating disability claims as follows:
First, the [Commissioner] considers whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. If he is not, the [Commissioner] next considers whether the claimant has a "severe impairment" which significantly limits his physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. If the claimant suffers such an impairment, the third inquiry is whether, based solely on medical evidence, the claimant has an impairment which is listed in Appendix 1 of the regulations. If the claimant has such an impairment, the [Commissioner] will consider him disabled without considering vocational factors such as age, education, and work experience; the [Commissioner] presumes that a claimant who is afflicted with a "listed" impairment is unable to perform substantial gainful activity. Assuming the claimant does not have a listed impairment, the fourth inquiry is whether, despite the claimant's severe impairment, he has the residual functional capacity to perform his past work. Finally, if the claimant is unable to perform his past work, the [Commissioner] then determines whether there is other work which the claimant could perform.