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Bailey v. Astrue

September 17, 2008

LISA DIANE BAILEY, 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 and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Lisa Diane Bailey ("Plaintiff"), seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c). Plaintiff specifically asserts that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), Raymond M. Faby, that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act, was not supported by substantial evidence and that the ALJ applied an erroneous standard of law.

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

BACKGROUND

On November 3, 2003, Plaintiff, at the time 38 years old, filed an application for SSI alleging disability, due to neck and back pain, beginning May 14, 2003. Plaintiff's application was initially denied on May 25, 2004 by the Social Security Administration. Plaintiff then filed a timely written request for a hearing on July 16, 2004.

Thereafter, Plaintiff appeared in Buffalo, NY on February 28, 2006, with a non-attorney representative, at a Video Hearing before ALJ Raymond M. Faby. In a decision dated June 2, 2006, the ALJ determined that the 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 May 4, 2007. On June 19, 2007 Plaintiff filed this action.

DISCUSSION

I. Jurisdiction and Scope of Review

42 U.S.C. § 405(g) grants the district court jurisdiction to hear claims based on the denial of Social Security benefits. When reviewing such a claim, this section directs the Court to accept the findings of fact made by the Commissioner, provided that those 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.2s 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. In doing so, the ALJ adhered to the Social Security Administration's 5-Step sequential evaluation analysis for evaluating appointments for disability benefits. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.*fn1 Under Step 1 of the process, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity at any time relevant to his decision. (Transcript of Administrative Proceedings at page 14) (hereinafter "T."). The ALJ then found that the Plaintiff's impairment, disorder of the spine with associated neck and back pain, was severe within the meaning of the Regulations but were not severe enough to meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in Appendix 1, Subpart P of the Regulations No. 4. (T. At 14-15).

Further, at Step 4 the ALJ concluded that the Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform the physical requirements of light work, occasionally lifting 20 pounds, frequently lifting 10 pounds, and standing and or siting for 6 hours a day, provided that the work environment is free of excessive dust, fumes or humidity which could aggravate Plaintiff's alleged asthma. (T. at 14-15). The ALJ specifically stated that, "mild to moderate pain or discomfort is not, in itself, incompatible with the performance of sustained activity." (T. at 16). Ultimately, the ALJ found that, while Plaintiff is no longer capable of performing her past relevant work as a home health care aide, considering ...


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