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Smith v. Astrue

July 8, 2008

GILDA G SMITH 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 Gilda G. Smith ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act § 216(I), § 223, and 1614(a)(3)(A) seeking review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") payments and Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the decision of Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") James E. Dombeck denying her 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 Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, 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. I therefore grant the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings, and deny plaintiff's cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings.

BACKGROUND

On October 17, 2003, Plaintiff, at that time 49 years-old, filed applications for SSI Benefits and DIB under Title II, § 216(I), § 223(d), and § 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act claiming an inability to work since May 25, 2003, due to: back strain, hypertension, hammertoe deformity, and mild urinary incontinence. Plaintiff's application was denied by the Social Security Administration ("the Administration") initially on January 26, 2004. Claimant filed a timely written request for a hearing on March 29, 2004.

Thereafter, on December 7, 2006, Plaintiff appeared with counsel in Rochester, New York, before the ALJ. In a decision dated January 24, 2007, 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 February 16, 2007. On May 25, 2007, the Plaintiff filed this action pro se.

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 ...


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