The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert L. Carter, District Judge.
Richardson applied for SSI on November 3, 1993, alleging that she was
disabled since August, 1988, due to a tumor, kidney pain, depression, and
a possible liver problem. Her claim was denied on both the initial and
reconsideration levels. Richardson appealed the reconsideration denial,
requesting a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). The
hearing occurred on July 11, 1995. Richardson was represented by counsel
and testified on her own behalf. There was no other testimony. On
December 14, 1995, the ALJ ruled that Richardson was not disabled.
Richardson then requested review of the ALJ's determination by the
Appeals Council. On April 25, 1997, the Appeals Council denied
Richardson's request for review, making the ALJ's decision final. See
20 C.F.R. § 404.981, 416.1481. Richardson brought this action on June
25, 1997. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). On July 6, 1998, Richardson moved
for a judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c), F.R. Civ. P.,
requesting the reversal of the Commissioner's decision and a holding that
Richardson is eligible for SSI; or, in the alternative, a remand for a
new administrative hearing. On August 24, 1998, the Commissioner moved
for a judgment on the pleadings, requesting that the court affirm his
Richardson is a 55 year old female. Richardson earned a General
Equivalency Diploma in or about 1975. Her work history is sporadic and
brief. For some time during 1966 and between 1968 and 1970, Richardson
worked as a welfare caseworker; for less than three months in 1988, she
worked as a clerical aid for a welfare center. Otherwise, she has been
unemployed. Richardson states that her attempts at securing and
maintaining regular employment were unsuccessful because of her "short
attention spans," mental depression, and a fibroid condition. (Tr.*fn1
35, 37). Richardson left her job in 1988, for instance, due to "an
episode coming home during rush hour on the train." (Tr. 34). During this
episode, Richardson "starting screaming," "couldn't breathe," and "felt
closed in." (Tr. 34). Richardson lived with her mother, up until the
latter's death in October, 1994.
a. Medical evidence from treating sources
A "Questionnaire as to Residual Functional Capacity: Psychiatric
Impairment", dated July 5, 1995 ("RFC Questionnaire") and completed by
Dr. Camille and Rose Lederman, a Clinical Social Worker/Therapist ("CSW
Lederman"), indicated that Richardson attended a group therapy weekly,
had individual therapy sessions on a bi-weekly basis, and saw a
psychiatrist once a month for medical evaluations. On the RFC
Questionnaire, Dr. Camille stated that "[s]ince mother's death in Oct.
1994, [Richardson] has been increasingly depressed — not leaving
house, unable to sleep thin night, eating maybe, 1 meal per/day. More
anxious with how to go on with her life — feeling unfocused." (Tr.
126). Dr. Camille also diagnosed Richardson as having a "dysthymia
disorder," a form of depression, and a "personality disorder." Dr.
Camille reported a Global Assessment of Functioning ("GAF") rating of
65. Based on Richardson's psychiatric status, Dr. Camille opined that
had "moderate" limitations on her ability to understand, remember, and
carry out instructions, respond appropriately to supervision and
co-workers, respond to customary work pressure, satisfy an employer's
normal quality, production, and attendance standards, and perform simple
tasks in a full-time work setting. (Tr. 127, 129). The limitations on
Richardson's ability to perform complex tasks in a work setting was
assessed as "marked." (Tr. 129). The term "moderate" was defined as
"[a]ffects but does not preclude ability to function." (Tr. 127). The
term "marked" was defined as "[s]eriously affects ability to function."
(Tr. 127). In addition, Dr. Camille noted that Richardson had been
prescribed Zoloft, an anti-depressant, and that the medication had
improved her ability to sleep and had helped her become less socially
isolated. (Tr. 128).
In a letter dated September 17, 1996 ("September 17 letter"), which was
presented as new evidence to the Appeals Council, Dr. Camille and CSW
Lederman stated that Richardson had been a client at their clinic at the
Fordham-Tremont Community Mental Health Center since March 7, 1995 (Tr.
164). Dr. Camille and CSW Lederman remarked that Richardson's "chronic
depression persists, with anxiety and sleep difficulties, leading her to
tend to be self-isolative." They further stated that Richardson, "though
pleasant and cooperative, . . . is unable to manage the ongoing
responsibilities that even a work training program would involve, let
alone — a work situation." (Tr. 164). Furthermore, in the opinion
of Dr. Camille and CSW Lederman, "it is not in the forseen [sic] future,
that [Richardson] could comply with [the responsibilities of a work
training program or a work situation]." (Tr. 164). Richardson's treatment
goals revolved around "focusing on improved daily self-care," such as
leaving her apartment a few times a week and eating on a regular basis.
(Tr. 164). Dr. Camille and CSW Lederman concluded the letter by stating,
"[Richardson] cannot take on the responsibility of a full-time job."
b. Medical evidence from consulting sources
On April 19, 1994, Dr. Luis Zeiguer ("Dr. Zeiguer") performed a
psychiatric consultation of Richardson. Dr. Zeiguer noted that Richardson
had a history of alcohol abuse starting at age 16, but was no longer
drinking. (Tr. 132). Dr. Zeiguer's report also noted that Richardson told
him that since 1988, she had experienced "shortness of breath, anxiety,
accompanied at times by heart pounding and inner tremulousness." (Tr.
132). Richardson also stated that when she was surround by people, she
had the "impression that she is the ugliest and smelliest person in the
world," and that this intense impression made her uncomfortable. (Tr.
132). Dr. Zeiguer's impression of her mental status included the
following comments: she was "clean," established "good eye contact," was
"engaged, cooperative," her answers were "prompt and to the point," she
was "logical and goal oriented," and that she was not describing
"suicidal plans." (Tr. 132). Dr. Zeiguer reported that Richardson's. mood
was "mildly depressed" and that her mood "remained stable" during the
interview. (Tr. 133). He also noted that Richardson arrived at the
interview alone by bus, that she took care of all the household chores
for her and her mother, that she liked to read and watch TV, and that she
had problems sleeping and socializing with others. (Tr. 133). Dr.
Zeiguer's overall impression of the information gathered in his interview
was that Richardson "should be able to perform at least simple,
repetitive chores; relate to peers and/or supervisors; [and] perform
tasks without disrupting the work setting." (Tr. 134). However, he also
opined that, "[p]resently she may have difficulty performing competitively
due to her ideas of reference which accompanied her panic attacks." (Tr.
On April 28, 1994, Dr. Wei Kao ("Dr. Kao") performed a consultative
physical examination of Richardson. Dr. Kao reported that Richardson
described atypical, sharp chest pains that occurred six to seven times a
week. (Tr. 135). However, Dr. Kao's examination of Richardson's heart,
abdomen, extremities, chest, muscle strength, neurological and
respiratory systems was unremarkable. (Tr. 136-37). With regard to her