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MATTEI v. BARNHART

United States District Court, E.D. New York


December 31, 2003.

LINDA MATTEI, Plaintiff; -against- JO ANNE B. BARNHART, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

The opinion of the court was delivered by: SANDRA J. FEUERSTEIN, District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

I. Introduction

Linda Mattel ("Mattei" or "plaintiff") commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's ("the Commissioner") decision that plaintiff is not entitled to Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") as provided in Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"). The Commissioner has moved for a judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c).

  Plaintiff alleges that she has been unable to work since December 1, 1997 due to a psychological disorder and lower back pain. The issue is whether plaintiff's alleged disabilities precluded her from performing any substantial gainful activity between September 1, 1998*fn1 and August 11, 2000, the date of the Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") decision. II. Background

  A. Procedural History

  Plaintiff filed an application for SSI benefits with the Social Security Administration ("Administration" or "SSA") on September 1, 1998. (Tr. 173-75, 177). The application was denied on April 17, 1999, (Tr. 50-55), and again upon reconsideration on September 21, 1999. (Tr. 58-61). At plaintiff's request, a hearing was held before an ALJ on May 11, 2000. (Tr. 17-49). At the hearing plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified. (Tr. 19-42). ALJ Burlison issued a five — page decision on August 11, 2000 denying the claim and finding that plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act (Tr, 9-16). Specifically, the ALJ ruled that Mattei's residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work was only minimally limited by certain non — exertional factors, and that in light of her age, education, and RFC, she could perform substantial gainful employment available in significant quantities in the national economy. (Tr. 14-16). On August 25, 2000, plaintiff timely requested a review the ALJ's decision, which was denied by the Appeals Council on February 10, 2001. (Tr. 4-6).

  B. Facts

  1. Mattei's Testimony

  Plaintiff was born in Puerto Rico. on December 25, 1962, and was thirty — seven years old on the date of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 24, 173). She has lived in the continental United States since approximately 1985, and reads and speaks Spanish. (Tr. 24-26). While plaintiff has never worked outside the home nor looked for a job since moving from Puerto Rico, where she attended school through the ninth grade, (Tr. 24-27), she has had a work — fare assignment serving meals to the elderly. (Tr. 41). Plaintiff testified that anxiety and side effects from medication render her disabled. (Tr. 177). Mattei also testified that she has diabetes for which she does not take any medication. (Tr. 28).

  She also socializes with a neighbor and visits her mother and sister every two weeks. (Tr. 22-25, 28, 197, 201). Although she rarely uses public transportation due to her anxiety, she attends church services, cleans her apartment, and goes shopping. (Tr. 22-23, 31, 197-98, 201-02). While she complained of back aches after sitting, bending, and lifting, she uses the stairs to reach her fifth floor apartment in an elevator building. (Tr. 24, 29, 33). Her disability report notes that she spends about two hours per day walking, three hours standing, and eight hours sitting. (Tr. 182).

  2. Medical Evidence

  a. Treating Physicians

  Plaintiff was first examined by her treating psychiatrist, Dr. Ofelia Fule, on April 24, 1998 and diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, depressive type. (Tr. 242, 247). On August 13, 1999, plaintiff told the doctor that her symptoms did not interfere with her daily functions. (Tr. 242). Dr. Fule reported that Mattei was dressed appropriately, well — groomed, and cooperative. (Tr. 248). Mattei's speech was clear, and she calmly answered the doctor's questions. (Tr. 248).

  There were no delusions elicited during the visit, and no presence of formal thought disorder or suicidal features. (Tr. 242, 249). Moreover, Mattei's memory, judgment, fund of information, attention, and concentration were labeled as fair. (Tr. 248). Although her capacity to maintain concentration and persistence could possibly be restricted in stressful settings, according to Dr. Fule, as of August 13, 1999, plaintiff had the ability to do work — related mental activities and perform her daily activities and no limitations with respect to social interaction and adaptation. (Tr. 249-50).

  Subsequent to August 13, 1999, Dr. Fule noted that plaintiff still had an appropriate affect, no formal thought disorder, and no suicidal or homicidal ideation. (Tr. 103-107). Of Dr. Fule's eighteen (18) Patient Progress notes, Mattei complained of minor side effects from her medication in only four (4), (Tr. 103-07, 111-120).

  b. Consultative Examinations

  i. Mental Health

  Plaintiff was examined on December 1, 1998 by Dr. Carlo Filiaci. (Tr. 216-18). Dr. Filiaci observed that plaintiff arrived at the appointment via mass transportation, was appropriately dressed, and had a pleasant yet evasive attitude. (Tr. 216)* Mattei made some mistakes on a "draw the clock" test, but none of her errors were consistent with constructional apraxia.*fn2 According to Dr. Filiaci, plaintiff has normal psychomotor activity, a euthymic (normal) mood, an appropriate affect, normal memory and orientation, and no formal thought disorder. (Tr.217).

  When Dr. Filiaci conducted a serial — seven test, in which the patient is asked to start with the number 100 and count down by 7s, plaintiff answered "95" and refused to continue. (Tr. 217). Notably, Dr. Filiaci stated in his report that he thought Mattei was intentionally trying to impress him with her confusion. (Tr. 217). On other digit — based tests, plaintiff performed fairly well (Tr. 217).

  Dr. Filiaci concluded that plaintiff can provide for her own daily needs, read and write, follow simple instructions, perform leisure activities, and relate to family and friends. (Tr. 217). The doctor also found Mattei's intellect is adequate, her judgment fair, and her sensorium clear. (Tr. 217). He observed that plaintiff could comprehend and carry out simple to moderately complex instructions, is able to respond to supervisors, cooperate with co. — workers, and bear pressures normally found in a work setting. (Tr. 217). Dr. Filiaci diagnosed plaintiff with mild depression, but found no personality disorder. (Tr. 217).

  A second consultative mental examination was conducted on August 11, 1999 by psychiatrist Dr. Harvey Barash. (Tr. 237-40). Mattei told Dr. Barash that she can take care of her personal needs and hygiene without assistance, performs the majority of household chores including shopping, cooking, and cleaning, gets along with people fairly well, and socializes with a few neighbors and family members. (Tr. 237). Plaintiff informed the doctor that she takes buses and trains by herself. (Tr. 238).

  According to Dr. Barash, plaintiff was pleasant and cooperative, and interviewed in English without trouble. (Tr. 238), Dr. Barash reported that plaintiff has a full and appropriate affect, a mood without significant depressive themes or trends, and a coherent thought process. (Tr. 238). The doctor found that the plaintiff's memory was fair, her concentration adequate, and no pathological or clinically delusional basis for Mattei's reports of hallucinations, which he labeled as "illusionary." (Tr. 238-39). There were no homicidal or suicidal ideations elicited during the evaluation. (Tr. 239).

  Although Dr. Barash found that Mattei was not significantly limited with respect to her memory, comprehension, concentration, persistency, and pace, he also found that plaintiff had a reduced tolerance for stress, and diagnosed her with a personality disorder with histrionic features. (Tr.239).

  Consultative psychiatrist Dr. A. Stockton conducted a mental RFC assessment dated April 12, 1999 based upon the findings of the consultative examinations. (Tr. 221-24), With the exception of moderate limitations in her ability to react appropriately to changes in the work environment and to set realistic goals or make plans independently of others, Dr. Stockton opined that plaintiff has no significant limitations in her ability to conduct mental work — related activities. (Tr. 221-24).

  ii. Physical Health

  On December 1, 1998, consultative internist Dr. Lee Mescon examined plaintiff. (Tr. 218-20). Mattei told Dr. Mescon that she can walk ten blocks, sit for four hours, stand for an hour, shop, cook, clean, and travel alone on public transportation. (Tr. 218). Upon examination, Dr. Mescon observed that plaintiff walked with a normal gait and could flex the lumbosacral spine 90 degrees and both knees 150 degrees, (Tr. 219). Mattei climbed on and off the examining table, undressed and dressed, and ambulated without assistance. (Tr. 219). Dr. Mescon also reported full range of motion in plaintiff's extremities, and no sign of muscle atrophy. (Tr. 219).

  There was no evidence of sensory deficits, tremors, or abnormal movements. (Tr. 219). Dr. Mescon found Mattei able to sit, stand, climb, pull, push, and carry heavy objects. (Tr. 220). According to Dr. Mescon, plaintiffs reported back pain could be treated with over — the — counter medication. (Tr. 220). A second consultative physical examination was conducted by Dr. Thomas Silverberg on April 11, 1999. (Tr, 234-36). Dr. Silverberg's findings were consistent with those of Dr. Mescon, and concluded that Mattei's activities did not demand any physical limitations. (Tr. 234-36). Although an x — ray of the lumbar spine revealed a "suspected" spondylolysis*fn3 over the L5 vertebra, it was negative for spondylolisthesis.*fn4 (Tr. 235).

  c. Vocational Evidence

  Edna Clark, a vocational expert, who testified at the May 11, 2000 hearing, was asked to assume a person with Mattei's traits: thirty — seven years old, ninth — grade education, no past work experience, an ability to speak Spanish fluently, and some English verbal communication skills. (Tr. 42-49). Ms. Clark was further asked to assume that the individual would be limited to performing simple and routine work in uncrowded settings with only brief and superficial contact with the general public and supervisors. (Tr. 43). The ALJ inquired as to whether work was available in significant numbers in the national economy that this hypothetical person could perform with light exertion. (Tr. 44).

  Ms. Clark identified positions of final assembler/thread cutter, of which 12,000 local and 40,000 national positions were available; riveter, of which there are 30,000 and 3,000 such positions available nationally and locally, respectively; and small parts assembler, of which 100,000 and 7,000 such positions are available nationally and locally, respectively. (Tr. 44). According to Ms. Clark, plaintiff's background and lack of work experience would not hamper her ability to perform the aforementioned unskilled jobs. (Tr. 48-49).

 III. Analysis

  A. Standard of Review

  A district court's review of the denial of social security benefits is confined to a determination whether there is "substantial evidence" to support the Commissioner's decision. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) ("The findings of the Commissioner . . . as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive. . . ."): see also Shaw v. Chater, 221 F.3d 126, 131 (2d Cir. 2000) ("[W]e conduct a plenary review of the administrative record to determine if there is substantial evidence, considering the record as a whole, to support the Commissioner's decision and if the correct legal standards have been applied."). Therefore, even if the district court might have ruled differently were it to have made the initial determination, the court must affirm the Commissioner's decision if it is supported by substantial evidence. See Rutherford v. Schweiker, 685 F.2d 60,62 (2d Cir. 1982). It is important to note that "the Social Security Act is a remedial statute which must be liberally applied; its intent is inclusion rather than exclusion.'" Id. (quoting Marcus v. Califano, 615 F.2d 23, 29 (2d Cir. 1979)); see also Williams v. Bowen, 859 F.2d 255, 260 (2d Cir. 1988).

  In the disability benefits context, substantial evidence has been defined as `"more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971) (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). "In determining whether substantial evidence supports a finding of the [Commissioner], the court must not look at the supporting evidence in isolation, but must view it in light of the other evidence in the record that might detract from such finding, including, any contradictory evidence and evidence from which conflicting inferences may be drawn." Rivera v. Sullivan, 771 F. Supp. 1339, 1351 (S.D.N.Y. 1991).

  However, the "substantial evidence" test applies only to review of the Commissioner's factual determinations. This standard is irrelevant to the Commissioner's legal conclusions, as well as its compliance with applicable procedures mandated by statute or regulation, see Townley v. Heckler, 748 F.2d 109, 112 (2d Cir. 1984), which are reviewed de novo. As noted in Jones v. Barnhart:

administrative decisions regarding claimants' eligibility for disability benefits have proven surprisingly vulnerable to judicial reversal. This vulnerability results primarily from the creation by the Commissioner, and the enforcement by the courts, of a variety of procedural obligations to which ALJs must scrupulously adhere. Failure to do so is treated as "legal error" permitting reversal of the ALJ's decision. . . . [A] district court reviewing a benefits denial may not simply accept the administrative determination because a cursory review of the record reveals plausible testimony or documentary evidence or expert opinion that supports the administrative determination. Rather, the record must be carefully developed and evaluated to determine whether the Commissioner fully complied with all the relevant regulations.
2002 U.S. Dist LEXIS 7073, at *9, *14 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 22, 2002) (citation omitted).

  Lastly, regardless of whether the ALJ renders a decision on the merits and adheres to all procedures, the district court may still remand if new and material medical evidence surfaces that was not presented at the ALJ hearing. See Santiago v. Massanari, No. 00-3847, 2001 U.S. Dist, LEXIS 9881, at *27 (S.D.N.Y. July 16, 2001) ("[T]he ALJ may turn out to be wrong even when he was right at the time the decision was rendered; the administrative proceeding is not quite over even when it's over.").

  B. Determining Disability

  Title XVI of the Social Security Act (SSA) defines disability as the inability "to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment. *. which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months. . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A) (2000). An individual may be determined to be under a disability "only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy. . . ." Id. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).

  SSA regulations establish a five — step sequential analysis by which the Commissioner is required to evaluate a claim for disability benefits. See Christian v. Apfel, No. 01-6045, 2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 2817, at **2-3 (2d Cir. Feb. 21, 2002); 20 C.F.R. § 416.920 (2003). First, the Commissioner must determine whether the claimant is doing substantial gainful work. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b). Second, if the claimant is not doing substantial gainful work, the Commissioner must then determine whether he or she has a "severe impairment." See id. § 416.920(c). Third, if a severe impairment exists, the Commissioner must next consider medical evidence to determine if the impairment meets or equals a listed impairment in appendix 1. See id. § 416.920(d). Fourth, if the condition does not qualify as a listed impairment, the Commissioner must analyze whether the impairment prevents the claimant from doing his or her past work, See id. § 4 16.920(e). Finally, if the claimant cannot perform past work, the Commissioner must determine whether the impairment prevents him or her from doing any other work. See id § 416.920(f). If so, the Commissioner must find the claimant disabled. See, e.g., Shaw v. Chater, 221 F.3d 126, 132 (2d Cir. 2000); Williams v. Apfel, 204 F.3d 48, 49 (2d Cir. 1999). The claimant bears the burden of proof on the first four steps of the aforementioned analysis. However, once the claimant has met his or her burden, the burden on the last step shifts to the SSA. See Shaw. 221 F.3d at 132.

  When assessing an applicant's claim, the SSA must consider: (1) the objective medical facts; (2) diagnoses or medical opinions based on such fasts; (3) subjective evidence of pain or disability testified to by the claimant or others; and (4) the claimant's educational background, age, and work experience. See Mongeur v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1033, 1037 (2d Cir. 1983) (per curiam).

  C. Treating Physician Rule

  The "treating physician rule" is a standard for evaluating the substantiality of the evidence that gives enhanced weight to the findings and opinions of treating physicians. According to the Federal Code of Regulations:

Generally, we give more weight to opinions from your treating sources. . . . If we find that a treating source's opinion on the issue(s) of the nature and severity of your impairments) is well — supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence in your case record, we will give it controlling weight.
20 C.RR. § 416.927(d)(2); see also Kamerling v. Massanari, 295 F.3d 206, 209 n.5 (2d Cir. 2002).

 IV. Mattei Was Not Engaged in Substantial Gainful Activity

  The first step of the analysis is to determine whether plaintiff was engaged in substantial gainful activity during the relevant period. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.910(b). Substantial gainful activity is defined as work that "(a) Involves doing significant and productive physical or mental duties; and (b) Is done (or intended) for pay or profit," Id. § 416.910. The ALFs ruling that plaintiff was not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the relevant period is undisputed. (Tr. 13).

 V. Mattei Had a Severe Impairment

  The second step is to determine whether plaintiff had a severe physical or mental impairment or combination of impairments that "significantly limit[ed] [her] physical or mental ability to do basic work activities." 20 C.RR, § 416.920(c). The ability to do basic work activities means the ability and aptitude "to do most jobs." Id. § 416.921(b). Basic work activities include:

. . . walking, standing, sitting, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching, carrying, or handling . . . seeing, hearing, and speaking . . . understanding, carry out, and remembering simple instructions . . . use of judgment . . . responding appropriately to supervision, co. — workers and usual work situations; and dealing with changes in a routine work setting."
Id. § 416.921(b)(1).(6), Notably, the analysis at this step may not accomplish more than screening out de minimis claims. See Dixon v. Shalala, 54 F.3d 1019, 1030 (2d Cir. 1995). If, however, the disability claim rises above the de minimis level, then the analysis must proceed to step three. See id. The ALJ's ruling that plaintiff had a severe impairment of schizoaffective disorder, depressive type, (Tr. 15), advances the analysis to step three.

 VI. Mattei's Condition Did Not Meet or Equal in Severity the Criteria for Any Listed Impairment in Appendix I

  Impairments listed in Appendix I of the Regulations "are impairments acknowledged by the [Commissioner] to be of sufficient severity to preclude gainful employment. If a claimant's condition meets or equals the `listed' impairments, he or she is conclusively presumed to be disabled and entitled to benefits." Dixon. 54 F.3d at 1022; see also 20 C.F.R. Pt 404, Subpt. P, App. 1.

  The ALJ found that plaintiff's psychological disorder neither meets nor equals in severity the criteria any of impairments listed in Appendix 1, Subpart P. (Tr, 13). Plaintiff alleges that her psychological disorder meets or equals the conditions outlined in section 12.03 of the Listings of Impairments, (Tr. 81); (Compl para. 5).*fn5 Plaintiff's burden of proving the existence of the disability listed in Section 12.03, Schizophrenic, Paranoid and Other Psychotic Disorders, is met if the requirements in both subpart A and B are satisfied, or the requirements of subpart C are satisfied.

  A. Subpart 12.03(A)

  Subpart A requires medically documented persistence, either continuous or intermittent, of a depressive syndrome characterized by one or more of the following:

1. Delusions or hallucinations; or
2. Catatonic or other grossly disorganized behavior; or
3. Incoherence, loosening of associations, illogical thinking, or poverty of content of speech if associated with one of the following:
a. Blunt affect;
b. Flat affect;
c. Inappropriate affect; or
4. Emotional withdrawal and/or isolation
20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, 12.03(A) (2000).

  1. Delusions or hallucinations

  Dr. Fule did not elicit any delusions during Mattei's examination, and noted that there was no formal thought disorder. (Tr. 242). Although Dr. Filiaci diagnosed plaintiff with mild depression, he did not find a personality or formal thought disorder. (Tr. 217). According to Dr. Barash, there was no pathological or clinical basis for Mattei's descriptions of hallucinations. In fact, Dr. Barash opined that such possible hallucinations were likely histrionic and illusionary. (Tr. 238-39). Dr. Barash further found that Mattei had a fairly solid grasp of reality. (Tr. 239). 12.03(A)(1), delusions or hallucinations, is not satisfied.

  2. Catatonic or other grossly disorganized behavior

  At her August 13, 1999 appointment, plaintiff notified her treating physician, Dr. Fule, that her symptoms did not interfere with her daily functions. (Tr. 242). Additionally, Dr. Filiaci noted that plaintiff engages in leisure activities and interacts with family and friends. (Tr. 217), Plaintiff also told Dr. Barash that she takes care of her personal needs and hygiene without assistance, and performs the majority of household chores including shopping, cooking, and cleaning. (Tr. 237). Thus, 12.03(A)(2) is not satisfied.

  3. Incoherence, loosening of associations, illogical thinking, etc.

  Dr. Fule described plaintiff's memory, judgment, fund of information, attention, and concentration as "fair." (Tr. 248). Mattei also spoke coherently and clearly, and no looseness of association was noted. (Tr. 248). Dr. Filiaci opined that Mattel was not a reliable historian but that she had no formal thought disorder and expressed herself logically and coherently. (Tr. 217). Dr. Barash found plaintiff's thought processes coherent and goal — directed, without flight of ideas or loosening of associations. (Tr. 238). Drs. Filiaci, Barash, and Fule all reported that plaintiff had a full and appropriate affect. (Tr. 217, 238, 248). Based upon this evidence, 12.03(A)(3) is not satisfied.

  4. Emotional withdrawal and/or isolation

  Mattei testified that she sometimes goes to church, visits her mother every two weeks, socializes with a neighbor, and hosts family members. (Tr. 22-25, 197, 201). In December 1999, plaintiff traveled to Puerto Rico. to visit her aunt and grandfather. (Tr. 38). Dr. Fule's September 6, 1999 report specified that plaintiff's mood was neutral. (Tr. 248). In his report, Dr. Filiaci described Mattei's mood as euthymic, but diagnosed her with mild depression. (Tr. 217). According to Dr. Barash, plaintiff's mood was without significant depressive themes or trends, (Tr. 238). Mattei also told Dr. Barash that she gets along with people fairly well, and socializes with a few neighbors and family members. (Tr. 237). There is no evidence that Mattei suffers from emotional withdrawal and/or isolation on a continuous or intermittent basis, and 12.03(A)(4) is not satisfied.

  B. Subpart 12.03(B)

  Plaintiff must satisfy both subpart A and B to sustain her claim. Subpart 12.03(B) requires that the depressive syndrome identified in subpart A result in at least two of the following:

1. Marked restriction of activities of daily living; or 2. Marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; or
3. Deficiencies of concentration, persistence, or pace resulting in frequent failure to complete tasks in a timely manner (in work settings or elsewhere);
4. Repeated episodes of deterioration or decompensation in work or work — like settings which cause the individual to withdraw from that situation or to experience exacerbation of signs and symptoms (which may include deterioration of adaptive behaviors).
20 C.RR. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, 12.03(B). Since plaintiff has not met the criteria for any subsection under subpart A, it is not necessary to examine the criteria of subpart B.

  C. Subpart 12,03(C)

  Having failed to satisfy subparts A and B, Listing 12.03 may be satisfied by meeting the requirements of subpart C, which requires:

Medically documented history of one or more episodes of acute symptoms, signs, and functional limitation which at the time met the requirement in A and B of this listing, although these symptoms or signs are currently attenuated by medication or psychosocial support, and one of the following:
1. Repeated episodes of deterioration or decompensation in situations which cause the individual to withdraw from that situation or to experience exacerbation of signs or symptoms (which may include deterioration of adaptive behaviors); or
2. Documented current history of two or more years of inability to function outside of a highly supportive living situation.
20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, 12.03(C).*fn6 In other words, Mattei may prevail by showing that at one time in the past, she satisfied the criteria of paragraphs A and B, that her symptoms are currently attenuated by treatment, and that she either has a history of repeated episodes of deterioration or a recent, extended period of inability to function. As noted above, the applicant bears the burden of proof on the first four steps of the disability analysis. It is clear that Mattel suffers from a mental disorder. (Tr. 217, 239, 242). However, despite Mattei's subjective complaints, the evidence does not reveal a past history of: (1) hallucinations or delusions; (2) catatonic or grossly disorganized behavior; (3) incoherence, loosening of associations, illogical thinking, or poverty of content of speech accompanied with a less than appropriate affect; or (4) emotional withdrawal and/or isolation. See 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, 12.03(A).

  Nor is there any indication that Mattei's daily activities have ever been markedly restricted or that she has had difficulties functioning socially. See 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, 12.03(B)(l-2). As plaintiff has failed to establish a medically documented history which meets the requirements of subpart A and B, it is unnecessary to examine the evidence vis — a — vis subpart 12.03(C) 1 or 2. It is, however, noted that there is no evidence which would qualify plaintiff as disabled under either of these subsubparts.

  Hence, this Court concludes that the ALJ's finding that Mattei's condition does not meet or equal the impairments listed in Appendix 1 is supported by substantial evidence.

 VII. Mattei Has No Past Relevant Work

  The fourth inquiry is whether the applicant has the "residual functional capacity" ("RFC") to perform past relevant work. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e). "Residual functional capacity" is the applicant's "maximum remaining ability to do sustained work activities in an ordinary work setting on a regular and continuing basis . . .," SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184, at *2; see also Melville v. Apfel, 198 F.2d 45, 52 (2d Cir. 1999). Since Mattei has no past relevant work, step four is inapplicable.

  VIII. Work within Mattei's RFC Exists in Significant Numbers in the National Economy

  The fifth and last inquiry is whether or not the SSA has introduced substantial evidence upon which to conclude that work within the applicant's RFC exists in significant numbers in the national economy. See 20 C.RR. § 416.920(f). To satisfy this burden, the SSA must address two issues: (1) what is the applicant capable of doing; and (2) what employment opportunities exist for someone who only possesses the applicant's abilities. See Decker v. Harris, 647 F.2d 291, 294 (2d Cir. 1981).

  After considering Mattei's testimony, her subjective complaints, and the medical evidence on the record, the ALJ found that Mattei retained the capacity to perform light work. (Tr, 14). Light work involves:

lifting no more than twenty pounds at a time, with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up to ten pounds. Even though the weight lifted may be very little, a job is in this category when it requires a good deal of walking or standing, or when it involves sitting most of the time with some pushing and pulling of arm or leg controls. To be considered capable of performing a full range of light work, a claimant must have the ability to do substantially all of these activities.
20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b). An ALJ must examine both exertional and non — exertional capabilities when making such a determination.

  A. Exertional Limitations

  Plaintiff alleges that lower back pain renders her disabled. (Tr. 287). However, Mattei's subjective evidence must be supported by medical signs or conditions that reasonably could be expected to produce the symptoms of which she complains. See Taylor v. Barnhart, No, 03-6072, 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 23805, at *5 (2d Cir. Nov. 21, 2003); 20 C.F.R. § 416.929(b), The ALJ was not persuaded that Mattei's back pain was disabling, and neither is this Court.

  In December 1998, Dr. Mescon noted that plaintiff had never been hospitalized for back pain, never wore a brace, and never had physical therapy. (Tr. 218). Mattei told the doctor that she can walk ten blocks, sit for four hours, stand for an hour, carry two gallons of milk, shop, cook, clean, and travel on public transportation. (Tr. 218). Dr. Mescon reported that plaintiff walked with a normal gait and could flex the lumbosacral spine 90 degrees and both knees 150 degrees. (Tr. 219). Mattei climbed on and off the examining table, undressed and dressed, and ambulated without assistance. (Tr. 219). Additionally, there was no evidence of muscle atrophy, sensory deficits, tremors, or abnormal movements. (Tr. 219). In sum, Dr. Mescon found that Mattei is able to sit, stand, climb, pull, push, and carry heavy objects. (Tr. 220).

  Dr. Silverberg found that plaintiff's lumbar lordosis was normal, and no paraspinal muscle spasms or tenderness was present. (Tr. 235). Although Dr. Silverberg noted that spondylolysis in the lumbar spine was suspected, he concluded that Mattei's activities did not demand any physical limitations. (Tr. 235-36).

  Other than Mattei's subjective complaints, there is very little objective medical evidence to support her claims for lower back pain. It is the ALJs duty to resolve conflicts in the record and make credibility determinations. See Schaal v. Apfel, 134 F.3d 496, 504 (2d Cir. 1998). In light of the diagnoses of Drs. Mescon and Silverberg, there is substantial evidence to support the ALJ's conclusion that Mattei does not suffer from any exertional impairment that would hamper her ability to perform light work.

  B. Non — Exertional Limitations The ALJ also considered Mattei's non — exertional limitations and properly concluded that her psychological condition did not significantly affect her ability to perform light work. (Tr, 14-15). Although Dr. Fule found Mattei's concentration and persistence could possibly be limited in stressful situations, he noted that plaintiff was capable of social interaction and adoption, and his September 6, 1999 report bluntly stated that Mattei "is capable at this time to do work related mental activities. . . ." (Tr. 249).

  Dr. Filiaci diagnosed plaintiff with mild depression but no personality disorder. (Tr. 217). The doctor opined that Mattei "is able to understand and carry out simple and moderately complex instructions" and "would be able to respond appropriately to supervisors, cooperate with co. — workers and withstand work pressures in a work setting." (Tr. 217). While Dr. Barash diagnosed plaintiff with personality disorder with histrionic features, he also noted that Mattei's adaptability was limited only by a "reduced tolerance for stress." (Tr. 239).

  After considering both Mattei's subjective psychological complaints and the medical evidence, the ALT properly concluded that plaintiffs symptoms "are not of such intensity, frequency and duration as to preclude all substantial gainful activitiy." (Tr. 14). The ALJ ruled that Mattei has the RFC to perform light work, except for employment involving more than brief and superficial interaction with the general public and work having high production goals. (Tr. 14). In accordance with Social Security Ruling 85-15,*fn7 the ALJ correctly determined that Mattei's non — exertional limitations only minimally impacts her potential occupational base. (Tr. 14). Thereafter, the ALJ determined that in light of Mattei's educational background, age, work history, and RFC, she was eligible for other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 15).

  C. Testimony of Vocational Expert

  An ALJ may utilize a vocational expert if an applicant is unable to perform the full range of a particular category of work. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.966. A vocational expert may testify regarding the existence of jobs in the national economy and whether based on a hypothetical person with the applicant's abilities can perform those jobs in light of his or her functional limitations. See Dumas v. Schweiker. 712 F.2d 1545, 1553-54 (2d Cir. 1983). The hypothetical question must present the full extent of an applicant's abilities based on all of the evidence. See De Leon v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 734 F.2d 930, 936 (2d Cir. 1984). In other words, there must be "substantial record evidence to support the assumption upon which the vocational expert based [her] opinion." Dumas, 712 F.2d at 1554.

  The ALJ asked Ms. Clark to assume a Spanish speaking person who was thirty — seven years old with a ninth grade education, illiterate in English, and no past relevant work experience. (Tr. 42-43). Further, Ms. Clark was told to only consider positions involving: (1) simple and routine work; (2) brief and superficial contact with the general public and supervisors; and (3) an uncrowded environment. (Tr. 43). This Court finds that the ALJ properly and accurately articulated Matteu's restrictions and limitations to the vocational expert.

  Citing to the Dictionary of Occupational Titles ("DOT"), in which the descriptions of the relevant jobs are found, Ms. Clark identified several jobs suitable for Mattel based on the hypothetical limitations set forth by the ALJ. (Tr. 44). First, Ms. Clark stated that there were 40,000 and 12, 000 final assembler and thread cutter positions available nationally and locally, respectively. (Tr. 44). Second, Ms. Clark identified a machine tender position, such as riveter, and testified that there are 30,000 national and 3,000 local positions available. (Tr. 44). Lastly, Ms. Clark noted that there were 100,000 and 7,000 small parts assembler positions available nationally and locally, respectively. (Tr. 44). Given the ALJ's RFC, the vocational expert's job recommendations, and the record as a whole, any contention that Mattei cannot perform these jobs is without merit. The ALJ's finding that plaintiff was capable of performing substantial gainful employment available in significant quantities was supported by substantial evidence.

 IX. New Evidence

  Plaintiff claims that at the time her case was reviewed by the SSA, she had "medical conditions that were not yet disclosed to her and were not reviewed by the commission." (Pl."s Opp'n to Mot. for J. on the Pleadings at 1.). According to the Act, the Commissioner must consider additional evidence submitted by an applicant, "but only upon a showing that there is new evidence which is material and that there is good cause for the failure to incorporate such evidence into the record in a prior proceeding." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)(2000). For new evidence to be material, it must be "both relevant to the claimant's condition during the time period for which benefits were denied and probative. . . ." Bradley v. Barnhart, No. 03-6029, 2003 U.S. App. LEXIS 25124, at *6 (2d Cir. Dec. 12, 2003). In addition, there must exist "a reasonable possibility that the new evidence would have influenced the Secretary to decide claimant's application differently." Id.

  The Appeals Council denied Mattei's request for review on February 10, 2001, an action rendering the Commissioner's decision final. (Tr. 4-6). Plaintiff has good cause for her failure to submit such evidence to the Commission since all of the documents to which she refers were prepared after the date on which Appeals Council denied review. (Pl's Opp'n to Mot. for J. on the Pleadings). Nevertheless, the documents offer no insight regarding Mattei's condition during the relevant time period, September 1, 1998 to August 11, 2000.

  More importantly, there is no reasonable possibility that the new documents would have changed the outcome of the Commissioner's review. A letter from the NYC Human Resources Administration simply states "you were too ill to participate in an HRA Approved Work Activity that prepares you for employment." (Id. at exh. 1). The NYC HRA letter does not specify the nature of Mattei's illness. Even if Mattei's illness was psychiatric, the requirements to participate in an HRA Approved Work Activity differ from the statutory disability standards. Although a letter from Dr. Silvia Sierra notes that Mattei has type n diabetes, hypertension, hyperdipidemia, and psychiatric disease, (Id. at exh. 3), this information does not satisfy Listing 12.03 or establish an inability to perform substantial gainful employment.

  The first letter from Sunset Park Mental Health Center ("Sunset Park") notes that plaintiff's symptoms include acute anxiety, mental confusion, and dysphemic mood. (Id. at exh. 4). Yet the same letter comments that Mattei "is complying well with her treatment at this clinic," (Id.). The second letter from Sunset Park states that Mattei's psychiatric problems, including symptoms of emotional instability, depression, and anxiety, render her unable to serve as a juror. (Id. at exh. 5). The third letter from Sunset Park notes that Mattei suffers from psychiatric problems of anxiety and depression. All of this information was found in the reports of Drs. Fule, Filiaci, and Barash, and fails to provide any further insight into Mattei's satisfaction of Listing 12.03 or her ability to perform substantial gainful employment. For these reasons, Mattei's new evidence is not probative. There is no reasonable possibility that documents would have influenced the Secretary to decide plaintiff's application differently.

 X. Conclusion

  For the foregoing reasons, this Court finds that there was substantial evidence supporting the SSA's determination that Mattei was not disabled and that she could perform light work. Accordingly, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is GRANTED and the Commissioner's final determination is AFFIRMED. The Clerk of Court is directed to close this case.

 IT IS SO ORDERED


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