The opinion of the court was delivered by: GARY SHARPE, Magistrate Judge
Diane Crowe alleges that back and neck pain, headaches, and
dizziness have disabled her, and challenges the denial of
disability benefits by the Commissioner of Social Security.
Having reviewed the administrative record, the court affirms the
After Crowe filed for disability benefits in April 2000, her
application was denied, and a hearing was conducted by
Administrative Law Judge John Lischak (ALJ). In May 2001, the ALJ
issued a decision denying benefits, which became the
Commissioner's final determination when the Appeals Council
denied review on September 7, 2001.
On October 17, 2001, Crowe 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, Crowe filed a brief, and the
Crowe contends that the Commissioner's decision is not
supported by substantial evidence and erroneous as a matter of
law. Crowe claims the ALJ improperly: (1) disregarded the opinion of her treating
physician;*fn1 (2) relied on the opinions of examining (but
non-treating) physicians in determining her residual functional
capacity (RFC); (3) failed to consider her "non-exertional
impairments;" and (4) failed to obtain vocational expert
testimony with respect to her occupational base. The Commissioner
counters that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision
that Crowe was not disabled.
The evidence in this case is undisputed and the court
incorporates the parties' factual recitations. See Pl.'s Br.,
pp. 2-5,*fn2 Dkt. No. 8; Def.'s Br., pp. 2-9, Dkt. No. 11.
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 ...