The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge
Plaintiff Linda A. Swigonski ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to section 405(g) of the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. §405(g), to review the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her application for Supplemental Security Income benefits ("SSI").*fn1 Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the decision of Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), Bruce R. Mazzarella, denying her application for benefits, was not supported by substantial evidence in the record and was contrary to applicable legal standards.
The Commissioner moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 405(g) on grounds that the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence in the record and is in accordance with applicable law. I therefore grant the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings.
On March 27, 2002, Plaintiff, who was 47 years old at the time, filed an application for disability insurance benefits alleging disability beginning on August 3, 2000, the date on which she sustained an injury at work, due to herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, carpal tunnel syndrome, depression, bleeding, and vision problems.*fn2 The Plaintiff's application was denied, and she subsequently filed a timely request for a hearing. (Transcript 40)(hereinafter "Tr."). An administrative hearing was held on September 9, 2004, attended by Plaintiff and her attorney, Paul M. Pochepan. (Tr. 511). At the hearing, the ALJ granted Plaintiff's request to reopen her prior application pursuant to 20 C.F.R. §404.987, since the Plaintiff had filed a new application within one year of the date of notice of the initial adverse determination. (Tr. 14). In a decision dated October 18, 2004, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Social Security Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on April 24, 2007. (Tr. 6-8). This action followed.
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. Matthews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 320 (1976). This section is applicable to SSI cases pursuant to 42 U.S.C. section 1383(c)(3). Additionally, the section directs that when considering such a claim, the Court must accept the findings of fact made by the Commissioner, provided that such 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., No. 06-2019-cv, 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." 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. Green-Younger v. Barnhard, 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).
The Commissioner moves 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." 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, 642 (2d Cir. 1988). If, after a review of the pleadings, the Court is convinced that "the Plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of [her] claim which would entitle [her] to relief," judgment on the pleadings may be appropriate. See Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46 (1957).
II. Standard for Entitlement to SSDI Benefits
Under the Social Security Act, a disability is defined as the "inability to engage in substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months..." 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(1)(A) (concerning Old-Age, Survivors', and Disability Insurance); 42 U.S.C. §1382c(a)(3)(A)(concerning SSI payments). An individual will only be considered "under a disability" if his impairment is so severe that he is both unable to do his previous work and unable to engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work that exists in the national economy. §§423(d)(2)(A) and 1382c(a)(3)(b).
"Substantial gainful work" is defined as "work that exists in significant numbers either in the region where the individual lives or in several regions of the country." Id. Work may be considered "substantial" even if it is done on a part-time basis, if less money is earned, or if work responsibilities are lessened from previous employment. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1572(a); 20 C.F.R. § 416.972(a). Work may be considered "gainful" if it is the kind of work usually done for pay or profit, whether or not a profit is realized. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1572(b) and 416.972(b). Furthermore, "substantial gainful work" is considered available to an individual regardless of whether such work exists in his immediate area, whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he were to apply for work. 42 U.S.C. §§423(d)(2)(A) and 1382c(a)(3)(B).
In determining whether or not a claimant is disabled, SSA regulations require the ALJ to perform the following ...