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REYES v. BARNHART

March 8, 2004.

LEONARDO REYES, Plaintiff, -against- JO ANNE B. BARNHART, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant


The opinion of the court was delivered by: LAURA TAYLOR SWAIN, District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Pro sc plaintiff Leonardo Reyes ("Plaintiff' or "Reyes") brings this action pursuant to § 2()5(g) of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 205(g), challenging the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security to deny Reyes Supplemental Social Security ("SSI" benefits. The Commissioner has moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). The motion, which is unopposed, is granted for the following reasons.

BACKGROUND

  Reyes was born in 1958. (Tr. 40). He is a high school graduate, and worked as a shipping clerk until his termination in 1998. (Tr. 266, 267). He was unemployed from then until the time of the AU hearing. (Tr. 267). During the hearing, Reyes testified that, although he had looked for work, he was at that time planning to return to school to study computers. Id. Reyes Page 2 also testified that he lived alone and used public transportation to travel. (Tr. 266). Over the summer before the hearing, Reyes's twelve-year-old daughter had lived with him. (Tr. 271). Reyes had also volunteered in the past at an AIDS center, and was planning to go back to volunteering there two to three times a week. Id.

 A. Medical History

  Reyes was diagnosed with HIV on February 5, 1998, at the New York University Medical Center. (Tr. 46,47). From May 1998 to December 1999, Reyes was treated by Dr. George McKenley at St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital Center. (Tr. 116). Dr. McKenley reported in May 1998 that Reyes had no skin lesions and no thrush in his mouth and pharynx. (Tr. 96). In December 1998, Dr. McKenley reported that Reyes was "doing well on a regimen of COMBIVIR and CRIXIVAN." (Tr. 116). In May 1999, Dr. Grace Minamoto, who had treated Reyes since February 1999, reported that Reyes had no opportunistic infections, AIDS-related diseases or current symptoms. (Tr. 119-124). Dr. Minamoto further reported on the basis of the same examination that Reyes had no limitations in sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying or handling of objects, and no limitations in social interactions and adaption. (Tr. 121-124). In another diagnostic examination which took place in April 1999, another physician, Dr. Peter Graham, concluded that Reyes was capable of performing activities such as sitting, standing, walking, lifting, carrying, and handling objects, though he may be limited by fatigue. (Tr. 131-133).

  Dr. Sharff, a state agency physician, performed an assessment of Reyes's capacity to perform work-related activities in June 1999. (Tr. 134-141). Dr. Sharff concluded that Reyes could lift up to twenty-five pounds frequently and fifty pounds occasionally, stand and/or walk Page 3 for about six hours in an eight-hour day and sit for about six hours in an eight-hour day. (Tr. 135).

  In October 1999, Reyes was examined by Dr. Michael Polak. (Tr. 147-149). At this examination, Reyes complained of weakness, fatigue, and intermittent fevers and chills. (Tr. 147). Dr. Polak found Reyes to be well-developed, well-nourished, and in no acute distress, but "mildly impaired for carrying/lifting, pushing/pulling, walking and standing." (Tr. 148-149). However, he also found that Reyes had a normal gait and would have no problems performing activities requiring dexterity, bending or sitting. (Tr. 147-149). Finally, Dr. Polak noted that Reyes lived alone in a sixth floor apartment and cleaned, cooked, and shopped for himself.

  In July 2000, Dr. Mary Theodore reported that she has been treating Reyes for a generalized anxiety disorder since May 2000. (Tr. 255-261). Dr. Theodore reported that Reyes was alert, oriented, and had no psychotic symptoms. (Tr. 255). She reported that Reyes had mild restrictions in his activities of daily living, mild difficulties in maintaining social functioning, and some difficulty concentrating and focusing on tasks. (Tr. 256-257). Dr. Theodore concluded, however, that Reyes did not have difficulties following through with tasks and could make occupational adjustments. (Tr. 257-258). B. Procedural History

  On April 19, 1999, plaintiff Reyes applied for SSI benefits, alleging an inability to work since August 28, 1998 (Tr.40-42). was unable to work due to HIV infection and an anxiety disorder. (Tr. 44K). Reyes's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 30-31, 33-35). At Reyes's request, a hearing was held before an administrative law judge (`"ALJ) on July 28, 2000, at which time Reyes appeared and testified. Page 4 (Tr. 262-278). On September 8, 2000, the ALJ issued his decision, finding that Reyes was not' disabled. (Tr. 8-27). On March 2, 2001, the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration denied Reyes's request for review, and the ALJ's denial became the Social Security Commissioner's final decision. (Tr. 4-5).

  DISCUSSION

 A. Standard of Review

  Under the Social Security Act, the "findings of the Commissioner as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). In reviewing the Commissioner's decision, this Court will set aside the "decision only where it is based upon legal error or is not supported by substantial evidence." Balsamo v. Chater, 142 F.3d 75, 79 (2d Cir. 1998). Substantial evidence is "more than a 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 (1971). "The substantial evidence test also applies to inferences and conclusions drawn from findings on facts." Levine v. Gardner, 360 F.2d 727, 730 (2d Cir. 1966). Therefore, "the Commissioner's findings of fact and the inferences and conclusions drawn from such findings are conclusive, even if the reviewing court's analysis differs from the analysis of the Commissioner." Worthy v. Barnhart, No. 01 Civ. 7907(JSM), 2002 WL 31873463 (S.D.N.Y. Dec. 23, 2002). In reviewing the ALJ's decision in light of the record, the district court does not" substitute its own judgment for That of ...


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