The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBERT SWEET, Senior District Judge
Defendant Jo Anne Barnhart, Commissioner of Social Security
(the "Commissioner") has moved under Rule 12(c), Fed.R.Civ.P.,
to dismiss the complaint of plaintiff Ralph Alvarez ("Alvarez" or
the "Plaintiff") seeking disability benefits. For the reasons set
forth below, the motion is granted.
On October 12, 2001, Alvarez filed concurrent applications for
disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the
Social Security Act (the "Act"), and SSI benefits under Title XVI
of the Act. Tr. 84-86, 97, 184-86.*fn1 His applications were
denied initially and upon reconsideration. Tr. 51-56, 187-92.
Plaintiff then requested a hearing which was held on December 16,
2002. Tr. 27-50, 57. The administrative law judge ("ALJ"), before
whom Plaintiff appeared, considered the case de novo and, on
January 26, 2003, found that Plaintiff was not disabled. Tr.
8-13. The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner on August 16, 2003, when the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review. Tr. 4-5. Alvarez filed his complaint pro se on October 28, 2003
seeking disability benefits resulting from diabetes, heart
problems, a mental condition, and visual impairment.
The instant motion to dismiss, which was unopposed, was marked
fully submitted on September 8, 2004.
The Commissioner's memorandum of law is unchallenged in its
characterization of the administrative record, the medical
record, the evidence presented by treating sources, and by
consulting and non-examining physicians. The presentation of the
Commissioner accurately reflects the record.
This Court reviews the Commissioner's decision that plaintiff
was not "disabled" as that term is defined in the Act for the
period for which he seeks benefits, see 42 U.S.C. § 423(d),
1382c(a)(3) (defining disability), in order to determine whether
it is based upon correct legal standards and is supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole.*fn2 Schaal
v. Apfel, 134 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1998); Beauvoir v. Chater,
104 F.3d 1432, 1433 (2d Cir. 1997) (citation omitted). If there is
substantial evidence in the record to support the Commissioner's
factual findings, they are conclusive and must be upheld.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Perez v. Chater, 77 F.3d 41, 46 (2d Cir.
1996). In deciding whether substantial evidence exists, the Court
should defer to the Commissioner's resolution of conflicting
evidence. Clark v. Commissioner of Social Sec., 143 F.3d 115,
118 (2d Cir. 1998).
The Court is mindful that Alvarez is proceeding pro se. It
is well established that any papers submitted by a pro se
litigant should be held to a less stringent standard than those
drafted by attorneys, that they should be read liberally, and
that they should be interpreted to raise the strongest argument
that they suggest. See Olle v. Columbia Univ.,
332 F. Supp. 2d 599, 607 (S.D.N.Y. 2004) (collecting cases).
Standard For SSI And Disability Insurance Benefits And The
Burden Of Proof
In order to establish disability under the Act, Alvarez has the
burden of establishing: (1) that he was unable to engage in
substantial gainful activity by reason of a physical or mental
impairment that could have been expected to last for a continuous
period of at least twelve months, and (2) that the existence of
such impairment was demonstrated by evidence supported by data obtained by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
techniques. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(3)(B);
Balsamo v. Chater, 142 F.3d 75, 79 (2d Cir. 1998). It is the
inability to engage in substantial gainful activity, not merely
the medical condition, that must last for a continuous period of
at least twelve months for the individual to be found disabled.
See Barnhart v. Walton, 535 U.S. 212, 214 (2002); see
also 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A).
For a person to be found disabled within the meaning of the
Act, it is not sufficient that he establish the presence of a
disease or impairment. The claimant bears the burden of
persuasion to show that the disease or impairment has caused
functional limitations that preclude him from engaging in any
substantial gainful activity and thus that he is entitled to
benefits. Mongeur v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1033, 1037 (2d Cir.
1983); Carroll v. Secretary of Health and Human Services,
705 F.2d 638, 641-42 (2d Cir. 1983).
Further, a plaintiff's medically determinable impairments must
have been "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."
42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B). The Commissioner uses a five-step
sequential analysis in making this determination. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(4), ...