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Kennedy v. Astrue

July 11, 2008

TAMMY M. KENNEDY PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY DEFENDANT.



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

DECISION*fn1 and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Tammy M. Kennedy ("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 her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") payments. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the decision of Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Clay G. Guthridge 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 November 12, 2003, Plaintiff, at that time 38 years-old, filed applications for SSI Benefits Title II, § 216(I) and § 223(d) of the Social Security Act claiming an inability to work since March 26, 2002, due to lumbar degenerative disc disease. Plaintiff's application was denied by the Social Security Administration ("the Administration") initially on January 22, 2004. Claimant filed a timely written request for a hearing on July 13, 2006.

Thereafter, on January 19, 2006, Plaintiff appeared with counsel in Rochester, New York, before the ALJ who presided from Dover, Delaware via teleconference. In a decision dated March 30, 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 22, 2006. On July 13, 2006, the 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 ...


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