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Papoi v. Astrue

June 27, 2008

TODD M. PAPOI 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 Todd M. Papoi ("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") Richard A. Kelly 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), 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. For the reasons set forth below, the court finds that the decision of the Commissioner, is supported by substantial evidence in the record, and is in accordance with applicable law. Therefore, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted, and plaintiff's cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings is denied.

BACKGROUND

On May 4, 2004, Plaintiff, at that time 41 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 July 15, 2003, due to: cervical disk herniations, lumbosacral strain/sprain, severe muscle spasms, carpal tunnel syndrome of the right hand, asthma, and depression. Plaintiff's application was denied by the Social Security Administration ("the Administration") initially on September 21, 2004.*fn2 Plaintiff then filed a timely request for a hearing on October 25, 2004.

Thereafter, on November 21, 2005, Plaintiff appeared with counsel in Buffalo, New York, before the ALJ who presided from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania via teleconference. In a decision dated January 24, 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 June 15, 2006. On July 6, 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 is Supported by Substantial Evidence in the Record

A. The ALJ Properly Found that Plaintiff is not Disabled

The ALJ's decision that the Plaintiff is not disabled as defined by the Act is supported by substantial evidence in the record. The ALJ properly weighed the various medical opinions contained in the record, in concluding that the Plaintiff is not disabled. The ALJ relied on the opinions of the Drs. Waghmarae, Wheeler, Holland, and Ryan, and those opinions, along with the substantial objective evidence in the record, establish that the Plaintiff is not disabled. ...


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