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Mancuso v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

March 6, 2008

KATHLEEN MANCUSO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe U.S. District Judge

DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Kathleen Mancuso alleges that carpal tunnel syndrome and diabetes have disabled her, and challenges the denial of benefits by the Commissioner of Social Security. Having reviewed the administrative record, the court affirms the Commissioner's decision.

II. Procedural History

Plaintiff initially filed an application for social security disability insurance benefits ("SSDI") on March 23, 1999, alleging disability due to carpal tunnel syndrome. (Tr. at 73-75, 96). This application was denied following a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), and Plaintiff requested Appeals Council review. (Tr. at 38-46, 63-67). Plaintiff filed another application, for SSDI and supplemental security income ("SSI"), on April 5, 2000. (Tr. at 5M). This application was denied by ALJ decision dated July 23, 2001. (Tr. at 49-59). Plaintiff appealed this denial to the Appeals Council, which remanded the claim and consolidated it with Plaintiff's previous March 23, 1999 application for rehearing. (Tr. at 63-67). On August 10, 2001, Plaintiff filed a third application, for SSDI and SSI. (Tr. at 245-47, 415-17). Following initial denial of this application, Plaintiff requested a hearing, and this claim was consolidated with the previous two applications. (Tr. at 5M, 190-97).

A hearing was conducted on January 14, 2003 and February 10, 2004, before ALJ Thomas Zolezzi. (Tr. at 504-07, 507-30). On March 26, 2004,*fn1 the ALJ issued a decision which found Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. at 5M-5Y). This decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied review on June 29, 2006. (Tr. at 5A-5E).

On August 1, 2006, Mancuso 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, Mancuso filed a brief, and the Commissioner responded.

III. Contentions

Mancuso contends that the Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence. She claims that (1) the ALJ failed to clarify the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician; (2) the ALJ failed to properly evaluate the severity of Plaintiff's obesity; (3) the Appeals Council failed to consider new and material evidence, pertaining to the time period before the ALJ's decision, which was submitted by Plaintiff after the date of the ALJ's decision; and (4) the ALJ erroneously concluded that there were a significant number of jobs in the national economy which Plaintiff could perform. The Commissioner counters that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision.

IV. Facts

The evidence in this case is undisputed and the court adopts the recitation of facts contained in the ALJ's decision, referenced by the parties in their briefs. (Tr. at5O-5R); see Pl.'s Br. at 2-3; Def.'s Br. at 2.

V. Discussion

A. Standard and Scope of Review

When reviewing the Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C. 405(g),*fn2 the court "must determine whether the correct legal standards were applied and whether substantial evidence supports the decision." Butts v. Barnhart, 388 F.3d 377, 384 (2d Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). It does not determine de novo whether a claimant is disabled. See Curry v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 117, 122 (2d Cir. 2000) (citation omitted). 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. See Pollard v. Halter, 377 F.3d 183, 188-89 (2d Cir. 2004) ...


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