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SOTO v. BARNHART

January 13, 2003

VANESSA I. SOTO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JOANNE B. BARNHART, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Larimer, United States District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

INTRODUCTION

This is an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) to review the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner") that Vanessa I. Soto ("plaintiff") is not disabled under the Social Security Act, and therefore, is not entitled to Social Security disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). As discussed below, the Commissioner's decision is reversed, and this case is remanded solely for the calculation and payment of benefits.

BACKGROUND

Vanessa I. Soto was born on July 23, 1961 (Tr. 40.) She completed a high school education and one year of college. (Id.) Her previous work experience is as a factory laborer, where she was required to perform heavy lifting, cleaning, chemical work, and operate a forklift. (Tr. 41-42.)

Plaintiff applied for DIB benefits on April 6, 1999, alleging that her chronic pain syndrome ("CPS"), fibromyalgia, depression, asthma, allergies and esophageal reflux became disabling on January 27, 1993. (Tr. 72, 77, 111.)*fn1

Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. 65-67, 74-76.) Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), and after a hearing the ALJ determined that plaintiff was not entitled to benefits and denied her claim. (Tr. 19-27.) The ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision on August 2, 2001 when the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review. (Tr. 4-5.) Plaintiff timely commenced this action seeking review of the Commissioner's final decision.

The Commissioner filed a motion before this Court for a remand, pursuant to the fourth sentence of § 205(g) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Commissioner conceded that the ALJ failed to correctly apply the law and regulations and now seeks a remand for a new hearing. I fully concur with the Commissioner that the ALJ committed error in denying benefits, but I disagree that a remand for a new hearing is appropriate. The record amply supports plaintiff's entitlement to benefits and, therefore, a remand is directed but solely for the calculation and payment of benefits.

DISCUSSION

In this case, both plaintiff and the Commissioner agree that the ALJ erred in his analysis and, therefore, the Commissioner's final decision denying benefits cannot be sustained. The principal issue then for the Court is what remedy is appropriate.

Depending on the nature of the error, a remand for further proceedings and development of the record is often appropriate and necessary. That is not the case here. There is no reason why the Commissioner should be afforded a second chance, with its attendant delay, to properly review the evidence of record. The record that exists is more than sufficient to show that plaintiff is entitled to benefits.

Where, as here, the record contains persuasive proof of disability and remand for further evidentiary proceedings would serve no further purpose, remand for calculation of benefits is appropriate. See Parker v. Harris, 626 F.2d 225, 235 (2d. Cir. 1980). Clearly, there is no basis to conclude that a more complete record might support the Commissioner's decision. See Rosa v. Callahan, 168 F.3d 72, 83 (2d. Cir. 1999). I find that the record, as it stands now, contains sufficient evidence to support a finding of disability before the expiration of the plaintiff's insured status. As will be shown below, the ALJ's error was in interpreting and weighing the evidence before him, not in assembling a complete record. As such, I do not believe that returning this case to the Commissioner for a proper analysis will yield any result other than that the plaintiff is disabled. Therefore, remand for calculation and payment of benefits is appropriate.

In proceeding through the five-step required inquiry, the ALJ determined that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity, that she had a severe impairment, but that impairment did not meet or equal the criteria listed at 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1. The ALJ proceeded to the fourth step and determined that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform the requirements of work except for standing and/or walking for more than a total of two hours in a 8-hour workday, sitting for more than six hours in an 8-hour workday, lifting, carrying, pushing and/or pulling more than 20 pounds occasionally or 10 pounds frequently, and ascending stairs or bending more than occasionally. (Tr. 26). He found that she was capable of performing a limited range of light work.

The ALJ's determinations that the plaintiff's diagnoses of fibromyalgia and chronic pain syndrome ("CPS") were not well supported by objective medical evidence, and that the plaintiff's RFC allowed her to perform light and sedentary work are not supported by substantial medical evidence of record. Furthermore, I find that the ALJ ...


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