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Camacho v. Astrue

January 7, 2010

PEDRO CAMACHO, 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 Pedro Camacho ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act §§ 216(I) and 223(d), seeking review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the decision of the Commissioner lacked substantial evidence to support his finding that the Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of medium work through the date last insured.

The Commissioner moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) ("Rule 12(c)"), on grounds that the Commissioner's decision was supported by substantial evidence and based upon the application of the correct legal standards. The Plaintiff also moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(a) claiming that the ALJ's decision was not supported by substantial evidence in the record and should be reversed. After reviewing the record, the 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 and therefore the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is hereby granted.

BACKGROUND

On August 30, 2004, Plaintiff, at that time 51 and one-half years old, filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits under title II, §§ 216 (I) and 223 of the Social Security Act ("the Act") claiming an inability to work since May 1, 2004. Plaintiff's application was denied by the Social Security Administration ("the administration") initially on December 13, 2004. Plaintiff then filed a timely request for hearing on January 31, 2005.

Thereafter, Plaintiff appeared, without counsel, at an administrative hearing before ALJ John Costello on August 28, 2007. In a decision dated September 19, 2007, the ALJ determined that the Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. This decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeal Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on July 19, 2008. On October 8, 2009, Plaintiff 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. 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. Substantial evidence is defined as, "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 217 (1938). Section 405(g) thus limits the Court's scope of review to determining whether or not the Commissioner's findings were supported by substantial evidence. See Mongeur v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1033, 1038 (2d Cir. 1983) (finding that a reviewing Court does not try a benefits case de novo). The Court is also authorized to review the legal standards employed by the Commissioner in evaluating Plaintiff's claim.

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 his decision was reasonable and is supported by the evidence in the record, and moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c). 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 a review of the pleadings, the Court is convinced that 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).

II. The Commissioner's Decision to Deny the Plaintiff Benefits was Supported by Substantial Evidence in the Record

The ALJ in his decision found that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act through June 30, 2003, the date Plaintiff was last insured. For Plaintiff to receive disability benefits, Plaintiff's disability onset date must fall prior to his date last insured. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.315(a); Kohler v. Astrue, 546 F.3d 260, 265 (2d Cir. 2008). To determine the disability onset date, the ALJ adhered to the Social Security Administrations's 5-Step sequential evaluation analysis for evaluating appointment for disability benefits. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. The Second Circuit has described this process as follows:

First, the Secretary considers whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. If he is not, the Secretary next considers whether the claimant has a "severe impairment" which significantly limits his physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. If the claimant suffers such an impairment, the third inquiry is whether, based solely on medical evidence, the claimant has an impairment which is listed in Appendix 1 of the regulations. If the claimant has such an impairment, the Secretary will consider him disabled without considering vocational factors such as age, education, and work experience . . . . Assuming the claimant does not have a listed impairment, the fourth inquiry is whether, despite the claimant's severe impairment, he has the ...


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