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Arena v. Astrue

February 26, 2009

ANTONIO ARENA PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL 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, Antonio Arena ("Plaintiff"), brings this action pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act, seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying his application for Supplemental Security Income("SSI"). The Plaintiff specifically alleges that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge, Judith Showalter ("ALJ"), denying Plaintiff's application for benefits, was not supported by substantial evidence in the record and was contrary to the applicable legal standards.

The Commissioner moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12 (c) ("Rule 12 (c)"), on the grounds that the decision of the ALJ was supported by substantial evidence in the record. Despite timely notification, the Plaintiff has not responded to the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings. After reviewing the entire record, this court finds that the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence in the record and is 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 complaint is dismissed.

BACKGROUND

On October 31, 2003, Plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, claiming disability due to depression, high blood pressure, fibromyalgia, and chronic pain. (Transcript of the Administrative Proceedings at pages 426-428, 433) (hereinafter "Tr."). The Plaintiff's application was initially denied on March 10, 2004. (Tr. at 430). Plaintiff filed a timely written request for a hearing which was held, by video conference, on July 12, 2006 before ALJ Judith Showalter. (Tr. at 444-487). Plaintiff appeared at the video hearing, with a representative, and testified. (Tr. at 444-487).

In a decision dated September 26, 2006, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.*fn1 (Tr. at 11-21). The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on February 28, 2007 when the Appeals Council denied further review. (Tr. at 4). The Plaintiff then filed this action on May 1, 2007.

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. When considering these cases, this section directs the Court to accept the findings of fact made by the Commissioner, provided that such findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. 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, 229 (1938). The Court's scope of review is limited to whether or not the Commissioner's findings were supported by substantial evidence in the record, and whether the Commissioner employed the proper legal standards in evaluating the plaintiff's claim. See Monger v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1033, 1038 (2d Cir. 1983) (finding 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 the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record and is in accordance with the applicable legal standards, and moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12 (c). The Plaintiff has not responded to the Commissioner's motion. 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 reviewing the record, the Court is convinced that "the 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). This Court finds, after reviewing the entire record, that the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record. Therefore, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted.

II. The Commissioner's decision to deny the Plaintiff benefits was supported by substantial evidence in the record.

The ALJ found that the Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (Tr. at 21). In her decision, the ALJ adhered to the required 5-step sequential analysis for evaluating Social Security disability benefits cases. (Tr. at ...


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