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Chambers v. Astrue

May 1, 2009

DOROTHY L. CHAMBERS, 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, Dorothy L. Chambers ("Plaintiff"), brings this action pursuant to Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act, seeking review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), that the Plaintiff was not entitled to Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"), prior to January 6, 2000. Specifically, the Plaintiff alleges that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge, Robert T. Harvey ("ALJ"), that the Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act prior to January 6, 2000, was not supported by substantial evidence in the record.

Both the Plaintiff and the Commissioner move for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) ("Rule 12(c)"). The Plaintiff claims that the ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial evidence in the record. The Commissioner claims the opposite. After reviewing the entire record, this Court finds that the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence in the record. Therefore, for the reasons set forth below, the Commissioners motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted, and the Plaintiff's motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

On April 30, 1999, Plaintiff, a former hospital laboratory clerk, filed an application for DIB and SSI, alleging disability since July 15, 1996 due to multiple sclerosis. Plaintiff had filed a previous application, on October 6, 1996, which was denied after an administrative hearing, in a decision dated July 28, 1998. Her current application was initially denied on March 2, 2000, and Plaintiff timely filed a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge.

Plaintiff appeared, with counsel, and testified at a hearing held on February 9, 2001 before ALJ Dennis O'Leary. ALJ O'Leary found that the Plaintiff was not disabled. The Appeal's Council remanded the case back to the ALJ level for further administrative review, and Plaintiff appeared at a second administrative hearing, before ALJ Robert T. Harvey, on February 21, 2002. ALJ Harvey found that the Plaintiff was disabled since November 1, 2001. The Appeal's Council again remanded the decision to the ALJ level for further proceedings, and a third hearing was held on August 2, 2005 before ALJ Harvey. The Plaintiff also appeared and testified at this hearing. In a decision dated October 27, 2005, ALJ Harvey found that the Plaintiff was disabled on January 6, 2000. This decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied further review. Plaintiff then filed this action to determine the onset of Plaintiff's disability. The issue in this case is whether the Plaintiff was disabled from July, 29, 1998, the date her previous application was denied, through January 6, 2000.

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 Plaintiff moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c), on the grounds that the ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial evidence in the record and is not in accordance with the applicable legal standards. The Commissioner claims that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record and moves for judgment on the pleadings to affirm this decision. 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 that there was substantial evidence in the record for the ALJ to find that the Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act between July 29, 1998 and January 5, 2000. Therefore, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted, and the Plaintiff's motion is denied.

II. There is Substantial Evidence in the Record to Support the Commissioner's Decision that the Plaintiff was not disabled from July 29, 1998 to January 5, 2000.

In his decision, the ALJ followed the required five-step analysis for evaluating disability claims. (Transcript of Administrative Proceedings at 16-24) (hereinafter "Tr."). The five-step ...


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