The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer, United States District Judge
Debra Glaze was born on November 9, 1953. (Tr. 57.)*fn1 She completed
a high school education. (Tr. 58.) Her previous work experience includes
work as a mail room attendant, a nursery school teacher's aide, and an
office assistant. (Tr. 59-62.) This work experience required her to be on
her feet no more than four to five hours per day and lift nothing heavier
than five pounds. (Id.) She applied for SSDI and DIB benefits on October
18, 1994, alleging that her uncontrolled diabetes mellitus, leg pain and
left knee bursitis became disabling on September 9, 1987. (Tr. 123-132.)
Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. 106,
103-104.) Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge ("ALJ"), and after a hearing the ALJ vacated the decision denying
benefits and remanded the matter for consideration of plaintiff's claim
of a mental impairment, which arose for the first time at the hearing.
(Tr. 42.) Plaintiff's application was again denied, and a second hearing
before an ALJ was held on April 9, 1998. (Tr. 54-75.) After that
hearing, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not entitled to benefits
and denied her claim. (Tr. 11-17.) The ALJ's decision became the
Commissioner's final decision on February 23, 2001 when the Appeals
Council denied plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 5-6.) Plaintiff
timely commenced this action seeking review of the Commissioner's final
The Commissioner's decision that plaintiff was ineligible to receive
benefits must be affirmed if it is supported by substantial evidence.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also Rivera v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 964, 967
(2d Cir. 1991). Substantial evidence is defined as "more than a mere
scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion." See Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. 389, 401(1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB,
305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). Thus, "[i]t is not the function of a reviewing
court to decide de novo whether a claimant was disabled." See Melville
v. Apfel, 198 F.3d 45, 52 (2d Cir. 1999). Therefore, the Court must
determine whether the ALJ adhered to the appropriate legal standards, and
whether his determination that plaintiff was not disabled prior to the
expiration of her insured status is supported by substantial evidence.
In determining whether plaintiff was entitled to receive disability
benefits, the ALJ in this case proceeded through the required five-step
inquiry. See Tejada v. Apfel, 167 F.3d 770, 774 (2d. Cir. 1999)
(discussing the five-step process delineated in the relevant
regulations); 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. At the first step of this
inquiry, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since September 9, 1994. (Tr.16.) Next, the ALJ found
that plaintiff suffered from
diabetes mellitus, a severe impairment.
(Id.) The ALJ determined, however, that this impairment did not meet or
equal the criteria listed in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1. (Id.)
The ALJ proceeded to the fourth step and determined that plaintiff had
the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform work related
activities except for work involving lifting and carrying over 25 pounds
frequently or lifting more than 50 pounds occasionally and remembering
detailed instructions on a consistent basis. (Id.) He found that her
impairments did not prevent her from engaging in her past relevant work.
(Id.) As such, the ALJ found plaintiff was not disabled. I find that the
ALJ applied the appropriate legal standards in determining the
plaintiff's disability status.
Substantial Evidence Determination
The only question remaining before the Court is whether the ALJ's
decision is supported by substantial evidence. In my view, the ALJ's
determination that plaintiff's RFC was sufficient to engage in her past
relevant work is supported by substantial evidence from several medical
First of all, evaluations from plaintiff's treating physicians, Drs.
John Gerich and Elizabeth Romero (Tr. 62), support the ALJ's findings.
Based upon a physical exam of plaintiff conducted on March 25, 1998, Dr.
Gerich determined that plaintiff had no limitations on her ability to
lift and carry, stand, walk, and sit. (Tr. 308-309.) He also opined that
she had little trouble with postural activities (climbing, stooping,
crouching, etc.) and had no environmental restrictions. (Id.) Dr. Gerich
stated that no work-related activities were affected by any of
plaintiff's impairments. (Id.) Similarly, Dr. Romero noted that plaintiff
was not in distress and had no acute findings during a 1995 examination.
(Tr. 196.) Dr. Romero did note, however, that plaintiff did not take her
insulin on a daily basis. (Id.) Notably, Dr. Romero's treatment notes
indicate that plaintiff had an interest in returning to work, and that
the doctor felt that once her diabetes was under control, plaintiff could
return to the workforce. The uncontradicted findings of Drs. Gerich and
Romero are crucial, since a treating source's uncontradicted opinion on
the nature and severity of impairments is given controlling weight if
well-supported by the record. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d)(2) and
The ALJ's determination concerning plaintiff's RFC is further supported
by two consultative assessments by state agency medical examiners. Dr.
Judith Bodnar determined that plaintiff could occasionally lift 50 pounds
and frequently lift 25 pounds, could stand, sit or walk for six out of
eight hours a day, and was unlimited in her abilities to push and pull.
(Tr. 86-93.) A second ...