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Myles v. Astrue

March 24, 2009

PEARLIE M. MYLES 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, Pearlie M. Myles ("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 her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). Plaintiff specifically alleges that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge, Bruce R. Mazzarella ("ALJ"), that the Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act, 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 ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence in the record. The Plaintiff opposes the Commissioner's motion, and cross-moves for judgment on the pleadings on the grounds that the ALJ's decision was erroneous. This court finds that the ALJ's decision 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.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, a former assembly worker, beverage bottle inspector, and cashier, filed an application for SSI on June 19, 2003, claiming disability due to depression, suicide attempts, and cutting herself. (Transcript of Administrative Proceedings at 68-9, 78) (hereinafter "Tr."). Plaintiff's claim was initially denied on November 26, 2003. (Tr. at 27). Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing on January 15, 2004, which was held in Buffalo, New York, on October 13, 2005, before ALJ Bruce R. Mazzarella. (Tr. At 17).

Plaintiff appeared, with counsel, and testified at the hearing on October 13, 2005, but became upset and was excused at the advice of her treating psychiatrist, Dr. Jin Soo Rhee. (Tr. at 17). The hearing was reconvened on December 14, 2005. The Plaintiff did not attend the subsequent hearing, but her fiancé, James R. Haas, appeared and testified on her behalf. Id. A vocational expert also testified at the hearing. Id.

In a decision dated January 17, 2006, the ALJ determined that the Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (Tr. at 17-25). The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Social Security Appeals Council denied further review on March 16, 2007. (Tr. at 5). The Plaintiff then 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. 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). Under Rule 12 (c), Judgment on the pleadings may be granted 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, and is in accordance with the applicable legal standards. 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 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 25). In his decision, the ALJ adhered to the required 5-step sequential analysis for evaluating Social Security disability benefits cases. (Tr. at ...


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