The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge
Plaintiff, Robert F. Tirabassi ("Plaintiff"), brings this action pursuant to §§ 216 (i) and 223 (d) of the Social Security Act, seeking review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). Plaintiff alleges that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge("ALJ"), John P. Costello, that the plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act, was not supported by substantial evidence and was contrary to the applicable legal standards.
The Plaintiff moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (c), on the grounds that the ALJ's decision was not supported by substantial evidence and was based on an erroneous legal standard. The Commissioner opposes the Plaintiff's motion, and cross-moves for judgment on the pleadings on the grounds that the Commissioner's decision was supported by substantial evidence. This Court finds that the decision of the Commissioner was supported by substantial evidence in the record and was in accordance with the applicable legal standards. Therefore, for the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted, and the Plaintiff's motion is denied.
Plaintiff filed an application under Title II of the Social Security Act for Disability Insurance Benefits on October 5, 2004. (Transcript of the Administrative Proceedings at pages 26, 83) (hereinafter "T."). In his application, Plaintiff, a former truck painter, tire changer, and landscaper, claimed a disability due to cervical and lumbar spine injuries caused by two motor vehicle accidents on February 11, 2003 and November 17, 2003. (T. at 83-4, 151). Plaintiff's application was initially denied on March 3, 2005, and Plaintiff timely requested a hearing. (T. at 48-53).
Plaintiff then appeared, with counsel, before ALJ John P. Costello on September 26, 2006 in Rochester, New York. (T. at 26). A Vocational Expert also testified at the hearing. Id. In a decision dated October 20, 2006, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. The Appeals Council denied further review, and the decision of the ALJ became the final decision of the Commissioner on November 13, 2007. (T. at 6-8). On January 15, 2008, Plaintiff filed this action.
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. When considering such claims, the court is directed to accept the findings of fact made by the Commissioner, provided that such findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record and that the Commissioner followed the applicable legal standards.
42 U.S.C. §405 (g). Substantial evidence is "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 Monger 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 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 is based on substantial evidence in the record and moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12 (c). The Plaintiff's moves for judgment on the pleadings on the grounds that there was not substantial evidence in the record to support the Commissioner's finding, and that the finding was based on an erroneous legal standard. 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). After reviewing the pleadings, if the court is satisfied that the Plaintiff could 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). In this case, this court finds that there was sufficient evidence in the record for the Commissioner to find that the Plaintiff was not disabled. Therefore, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted, and the Plaintiff's motion is denied.
II. The Commissioner's decision to deny the Plaintiff Disability Insurance Benefits is supported by Substantial Evidence
The ALJ found that the Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. In his decision, the ALJ adhered to the following five step sequential analysis required for evaluating Social Security Disability benefits claims:
(1) if the claimant is performing substantial gainful work, he is not disabled;
(2)if the claimant is not performing substantial gainful work, his impairment(s) must be "severe" before he can be found to be disabled;
(3)if the claimant is not performing substantial gainful work and has a "severe" impairment (s) that has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least twelve months, and his impairment(s) meets or medically equals a listed impairment contained in Appendix 1, Subpart P, ...