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HALLORAN v. COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY

March 28, 2003

DARLINE HALLORAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe, Magistrate Judge.

DECISION AND ORDER*fn1

I. BACKGROUND

On March 28, 2001, Darline Halloran, acting through counsel, filed an appeal of her denial of disability insurance benefits by the Commissioner of Social Security. On October 7, 1999, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Lawson Brown. The decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied her request for review.

Halloran has brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking review of the Commissioner's final determination. The Commissioner filed an answer and a certified administrative transcript on June 18, 2001.

II. CONTENTIONS

Halloran makes the following claims: (1) the ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial evidence; (2) the ALJ failed to properly apply the treating source rule; (3) the ALJ did not properly assess her allegations of pain and resulting limitations; and, (4) the case should be remanded for the calculation of benefits.

The Commissioner argues that the ALJ's determination was supported by substantial evidence and must be affirmed. Specifically, the Commissioner maintains that the ALJ properly evaluated the medical evidence which showed that Halloran could perform her past relevant work. The Commissioner also argues that the ALJ properly evaluated her subjective complaints of pain.

III. FACTS

The facts contained in Halloran's brief (Dkt. No. 6) are adopted as supplemented in the defendant's brief (Dkt. No. 7).

IV. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

I. Scope of Review

A court's review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to determining whether the correct legal standards were applied and whether substantial evidence supports the decision. Urtz v. Callahan, 965 F. Supp. 324, 326 (N.D.N.Y. 1997) (citing Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d 983, 985 (2d Cir. 1987)). Although the Commissioner is ultimately responsible for determining a claimant's eligibility, the actual disability determination is made by an ALJ. The ALJ's decision is reviewed by a court after an appeal is filed. A court may not affirm an ALJ's decision if it reasonably doubts whether the proper legal standards were applied, even if it appears to be supported by substantial evidence. Johnson, 817 F.2d at 986. In addition, an ALJ must set forth the crucial factors justifying his findings with sufficient specificity to allow a court to determine whether substantial evidence supports the decision. Ferraris v. Heckler, 728 F.2d 582, 587 (2d Cir. 1984).

A court's factual review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to the determination of whether there is substantial evidence in the record to support the decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see Rivera v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 964, 967 (2d Cir. 1991). "Substantial evidence has been defined as such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Williams ex rel Williams v. Bowen, 859 F.2d 255, 258 (2d Cir. 1988) (citations omitted). It must be "more than a mere scintilla" of evidence scattered throughout the administrative record. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)); Alston v. Sullivan, 904 F.2d 122, 126 (2d Cir. 1990). "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 its weight." Williams, 859 F.2d at 258. However, a reviewing court cannot ...


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