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Williams v. Astrue

June 17, 2009

TIMOTHY P. WILLIAMS JR., 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 Timothy P. Williams Jr. ("Williams" or "Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, claiming that the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner" or "Defendant") improperly denied his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") John P. Costello, who denied his application, was erroneous as it was not supported by substantial evidence contained in the record.

The Commissioner and Plaintiff move for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 405(g) and Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) ("Rule 12(c)"). The Commissioner claims that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record whereas Plaintiff claims that the Commissioner's decision is 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 Plaintiff's motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

On December 8, 2004, Plaintiff protectively filed for DIB and SSI claiming that he had become disabled on October 21, 2002, due to a foot injury that Plaintiff sustained at work in 1997. (Transcript of the Administrative Proceedings at pages 12, 37, 62) (hereinafter "T."). Plaintiff's injury occurred on July 15, 1997, when his left foot was pinned between a moving tow motor and a structural steel beam, which resulted in multiple fracture dislocations and soft tissue degloving injuries to his left foot.

(T. at 229). In 1999, following treatment Plaintiff returned to work and was employed through 2002 in a position similar to that which he held prior to the accident. Id. Plaintiff, who was 37-years old at the alleged onset of disability, graduated from high school and worked in the shipping and receiving industry from October of 1982 through October of 2002. (T. at 20, 66).

Plaintiff's application was initially denied by the Social Security Administration on June 1, 2005, and he filed a timely request for a hearing on July 8, 2005. (Tr. at 12). In a decision dated December 28, 2007, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (T. at 21). On May 1, 2008, 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. (T. at 3-5). Plaintiff filed this action on July 1, 2008.

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). In the present case, this Court finds that there was ...


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