The opinion of the court was delivered by: GARY SHARPE, Magistrate Judge
Mary Hunt alleges that osteoarthritis and obesity have disabled
her, and challenges the Commissioner's denial of disability
insurance and supplemental security income benefits prior to her
fifty-fifth birthday.*fn1 Having reviewed the administrative
record, the court concludes that the Commissioner's decision was
based on substantial evidence, and affirms.
After Hunt filed for disability benefits in June 1998, her
application was denied, and a hearing was conducted by
Administrative Law Judge Thomas Zolezzi (ALJ). In February 1999,
the ALJ issued a decision partially*fn2 denying benefits,
which became the Commissioner's final determination when the
Appeals Council denied review on April 15, 2000.
On May 8, 2000, Hunt brought this action pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking review of the Commissioner's final
determination. The Commissioner then filed an answer and a
certified administrative transcript,*fn3 Hunt filed a brief, and the Commissioner
Hunt contends that the Commissioner's*fn4 decision is not
supported by substantial evidence. She claims that the ALJ: (1)
reached a determination unsupported by the medical evidence; (2)
disregarded the opinions of her treating physicians; (3) failed
to set specific factors in assessing her Residual Functional
Capacity (RFC); and (4) improperly evaluated her subjective
complaints and symptoms.*fn5 The Commissioner counters that
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision that Hunt was
The evidence in this case is not in dispute and the court
incorporates the parties' factual recitations. See Pl.'s Br.,
pp. 2-6, Dkt. No. 10; Def.'s Br., pp. 4-6, Dkt. No. 11. V. Discussion
A. Standard and Scope of Review
When reviewing the Commissioner's final decision, the court
must determine 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, and that decision is subject to judicial review
on appeal. 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 decision is
limited to the determination of whether substantial evidence in
the record supports 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
substitute its interpretation of the administrative record for
that of the Commissioner if the record contains substantial
support for the ALJ's decision. Blalock v. Richardson,
483 F.2d 773, 775 (4th Cir. 1972); see also Rutherford v. Schweiker,
685 F.2d 60, 62 (2d Cir. 1982).
The court has authority to reverse with or without remand
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Remand is appropriate where there are gaps in
the record or further development of the evidence is needed. See
Parker v. Harris, 626 F.2d 225, 235 (2d Cir. 1980); Cutler v.
Weinberger, 516 F.2d 1282, 1287 (2d Cir. 1975) (remand to permit
claimant to produce further evidence). In order to "ensure that
the correct legal principles are applied in evaluating disability
claims . . . th[e Second C]ircuit recognizes the appropriateness
of remanding cases because of the lack of specificity of an ALJ's
decision." Knapp v. Apfel, 11 F. Supp.2d 235, 238 (N.D.N.Y.
1998) (citing Johnson, 817 F.2d at 985). Reversal is
appropriate, however, when there is "persuasive proof of
disability" in the record and remand for further evidentiary
development would not serve any purpose. Parker, 626 F.2d at
235; Simmons v. United States R.R. Ret. Bd., 982 F.2d 49, 57
(2d Cir. 1992); Carroll v. Sec'y of HHS, 705 F.2d 638, 644 ...