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DWYER v. APFEL

October 15, 1998

PATRICIA L. DWYER, Plaintiff,
v.
KENNETH S. APFEL,1 COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: HURD

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

 This matter is brought pursuant to §§ 205(g) & 1631(b)(3) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) & 1383(c)(3), to review a final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security denying the plaintiff's claim for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income. The parties have filed their briefs, including the Administrative Record on Appeal, and the matter has been submitted for decision without oral argument.

 I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

 Plaintiff Patricia Dwyer filed applications for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits ("SSDI") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") on November 30, 1993. Plaintiff claimed to be disabled since May of 1988 due to panic attacks with symptoms including rapid heart rate, sweating, and feeling the need to isolate herself, as well as feeling faint and in a state of rage. (Pl.'s Br. at 3.) She also claims that the severity and frequency of the panic attacks depend on the level of stress she feels. Id. Both applications for benefits were denied on January 24, 1994. No appeal was taken from the denials. Plaintiff then reapplied on March 13, 1995 for SSI, and on June 29, 1995 for SSDI. Both of these applications were also denied initially and on reconsideration. Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), which resulted in a decision that plaintiff was not disabled. Plaintiff then requested review by the Appeals Council. The ALJ's decision became the final decision on plaintiff's claim for SSDI and SSI when the Appeals Council denied the plaintiff benefits on September 19, 1997.

 The plaintiff brought this action on October 14, 1997 and now seeks a judgment on the pleadings. The defendant has moved to remand the case for further administrative proceedings. For the reasons set forth below, the defendant's motion for remand should be granted.

 II. FACTS

 This court adopts the facts set forth in plaintiff's brief.

 III. CONTENTIONS

 Plaintiff contends that the ALJ's decision that the plaintiff can perform non-exertional work is not supported by substantial evidence and is based on incorrect legal standards for the following reasons:

 
1. The ALJ failed to accord the proper weight to Dwyer's treating physician's opinion and failed to analyze his opinion in accordance with the Commissioner's own regulations;
 
2. In assessing her credibility, the ALJ failed to accord proper weight to the plaintiff's subjective complaints of her symptoms; and
 
3. The ALJ improperly relied on § 204.00 Appendix 2, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4 as a framework in determining that the plaintiff can perform nonexertional work except for frequent contact with the public and failed to provide expert testimony as to what type of work plaintiff could perform.

 IV. DISCUSSION

 A. Standard of Review

 A court's review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to determining whether there is substantial evidence in the record to support such decision. Rivera v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 964, 967 (2d. Cir. 1991). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable person might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 28 L. Ed. 2d 842, 91 S. Ct. 1420 (1971)). "To determine on appeal whether an ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence, a reviewing court considers the whole record, examining the evidence from both sides, because an analysis of the substantiality of the evidence must also include that which detracts from it's weight." Williams v. Bowen, 859 F.2d 255, 258 (2d Cir. 1988)(citing Universal Camera Corp. v. NLRB, 340 U.S. 474, 488, 95 L. Ed. 456, 71 S. Ct. 456 (1951); Mongeur v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1033, 1038 (2d Cir. 1983)). However, a reviewing court must not substitute its interpretation of the administrative record so long as there exists substantial support for the decision in the record. Id.

 Additionally, the scope of review involves determining both whether the Commissioner has applied the correct legal standard as well as whether the determination is supported by substantial evidence. Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d 983, 985 (2d Cir. 1987). Thus, where there is a reasonable basis for doubting whether the Commissioner applied the appropriate legal standards, even if the ultimate decision may be ...


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