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