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Jones v. Astrue

June 10, 2009

ROBERT K. JONES, 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 Robert K. Jones ("Jones" or "the Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g), seeking review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Paula F. Garrety, which denied his application for benefits, was in error as it was not supported by substantial evidence contained in the record.

Both the Commissioner and the Plaintiff move for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) ("Rule 12(c)"). The Commissioner claims that the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence in the record whereas Plaintiff claims that the Commissioner's decision was erroneous. This Court finds that the decision of the Commissioner for the reasons set forth below, is 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 the plaintiff's motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

On July 15, 2004, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB claiming a disability since November 11, 2003, due to a heart condition and post status gunshot wound in his right leg. (Tr. 51-52). Plaintiff, who was 48 years old with two years of college education, and had previously worked as a construction worker that required heavy lifting. (Tr. 20-21, 52-53). Plaintiff's application was initially denied by the Social Security Administration on November 2, 2004. Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing, which was held before ALJ Paula Garrety on August 31, 2006. In a decision dated September 18, 2006, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. On May 11, 2007, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Social Security Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's denial. Plaintiff filed this action on June 24, 2007.

DISCUSSION

I. Jurisdiction and Scope of Review

Title 42, Section 405(g) of the United States Code grants jurisdiction to Federal District Courts to hear claims based on the denial of Social Security benefits. See Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 320 (1976). In addition, Section 405(g) directs that the District Court must accept the Commissioner's findings of fact if those findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. See Bubnis v. Apfel, 150 F.3d 177, 181 (2d Cir. 1998); see also Williams v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 9396, at *3 (2d Cir. Apr. 24, 2007).

Substantial evidence is defined as "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." See Metropolitan Stevedore Co. v. Rambo, 521 U.S. 121, 149 (1997) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). Section 405(g) thus limits this court's scope of review to two inquiries: (i) whether the Commissioner's conclusions are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole, and (ii) whether the Commissioner's conclusions are based upon an erroneous legal standard. See Green-Younger v. Barnhart, 335 F.3d 99, 105-06 (2d Cir. 2003); see also Wagner v. Secretary of Health & Human Serv., 906 F.2d 856, 860 (2d Cir. 1990) (holding that review of the Secretary's decision is not de novo and that the Secretary's findings are conclusive if supported by substantial evidence).

Both Plaintiff and Defendant move for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 405(g) and Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Section 405(g) provides that the District Court "shall have power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing." 42 U.S.C.S. § 405(g) (2007). 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. See Sellers v. M.C. Floor Crafters, Inc., 842 F.2d 639, 642 (2d Cir. 1988).

Because this Court finds that the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence and the record contains substantial evidence such that further evidentiary proceedings would serve no further purpose, judgment on the pleadings is hereby granted in favor of the Commissioner.

II. The Commissioner's Decision To Deny The Plaintiff Benefits Was Supported By Substantial Evidence In The Record

The ALJ's decision followed the Social Security Administration's five-step evaluation analysis in finding that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social ...


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