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Torina v. Astrue

June 16, 2008

EDWARD VICTOR TORINA PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE*FN1, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Edward V. Torina ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act § 216(i) and § 223, seeking review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying his application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") payments. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the decision of Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") William R. Pietz denying his application for benefits was not supported by substantial evidence contained in the record and was contrary to applicable legal standards.

The Commissioner moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (c)("Rule 12 (c)"), on grounds that the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence. Plaintiff opposes the Commissioner's motion, and cross-moves for judgment on the pleadings, on grounds that the Commissioner's decision was erroneous. The court finds that the decision of the Commissioner for the reasons set forth below, is supported by substantial evidence in the record, and in accordance with applicable law. Therefore, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is hereby granted.

BACKGROUND

On April 19, 2004, Plaintiff, at that time 38 years-old, filed applications for Supplemental Security Income Benefits under Title II, § 216(i) and § 223 of the Social Security Act claiming an inability to work since October 6, 2001, due to: diabetes, emphysema, arthritis, asthma, high blood pressure, cholesterol, acid reflux disease, severe leg pain and a hernia. Plaintiff's application was denied by the Social Security Administration ("the administration") initially on June 2, 2004. Plaintiff then filed a timely request for a hearing on August 2, 2004.

Thereafter, Plaintiff with counsel, appeared before the ALJ on January 11, 2006. In a decision dated January 19, 2006, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled. The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Social Security Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on April 28, 2006. On June 22, 2006, Plaintiff filed this action.

DISCUSSION

I. Jurisdiction and Scope of Review

42 U.S.C. § 405(g) grants jurisdiction to district courts to hear claims based on the denial of Social Security benefits. Additionally, the section directs that when considering such a claim, the Court must accept the findings of fact made by the Commissioner, provided that such findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. Substantial evidence is defined as, "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 217 (1938). Section 405(g) thus limits the Court's scope of review to determining whether or not the Commissioner's findings were supported by substantial evidence. See, Mongeur v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1033, 1038 (2d Cir. 1983) (finding that a reviewing Court does not try a benefits case de novo). The Court is also authorized to review the legal standards employed by the Commissioner in evaluating Plaintiff's claim.

The Court must "scrutinize the record in its entirety to determine the reasonableness of the decision reached." Lynn v. Schweiker, 565 F. Supp. 265, 267 (S.D. Tex. 1983) (citation omitted). The Commissioner asserts that his decision was reasonable and is supported by the evidence in the record, and moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c). Judgment on the pleadings may be granted under Rule 12(c) where the material facts are undisputed and where judgment on the merits is possible merely by considering the contents of the pleadings. Sellers v. M.C. Floor Crafters, Inc.,842 F.2d 639 (2d Cir. 1988). If, after a review of the pleadings, the Court is convinced that Plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief, judgment on the pleadings may be appropriate. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957).

II. The Commissioner's decision to deny the Plaintiff benefits was supported by substantial evidence in the record

The ALJ in his decision found that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. The ALJ adhered to the Social Security Administration's 5-Step sequential evaluation analysis for evaluating appointments for disability benefits.

20 C.F.R. ยง 404.1520. The 5-Step analysis includes: (1) ALJ considers whether claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) if not, ALJ considers whether claimant has severe impairment which significantly limits his physical or mental ability to do basic work activities; (3) if claimant suffers such impairment, such inquiry is whether, based solely on medical evidence, claimant has impairment which is listed in regulations Appendix 1, and if so, claimant will be considered disabled without considering vocational factors; (4) if claimant does not have listed impairment, fourth inquiry is whether, despite claimant's severe impairment, he ...


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