The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge
Plaintiff Sherri L. Glover ("Glover") brings this action pursuant to §205(g) of the Social Security Act ("the Act")seeking review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her application for both disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. Specifically, Glover challenges Administrative Law Judge Marilyn D. Zahm's ("ALJ")determination that she is not disabled under the sequential evaluation process(20 C.F.R. 404.1520(a) and 416.920(a)) set forth by the Social Security Administration under the Social Security Act. Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ's decision was erroneous and unsupported by both substantial evidence and applicable legal standards.
The Commissioner moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c), on grounds that the Commissioner's decision was supported by substantial evidence and based upon the application of the correct legal standards. Glover opposes the Commissioner's motion and cross-moves for judgment on the pleadings, on grounds that Commissioner's decision was erroneous and not supported by substantial evidence in the record. For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence on the record, and is in accord with applicable law. Therefore, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is hereby granted.
Glover filed an application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under Title II and Part A of Title XVIII of the Social Security Act on October 20, 2003 for a period of disability beginning on October 4, 2003. (T. 68) Glover's claim was based on persistent back pain and a pulmonary embolism for which she was hospitalized on October 4, 2003. Plaintiff's application was denied by the Social Security Administration initially on January 27, 2004. Glover timely filed a request for hearing on March 24, 2004.
Thereafter, Glover appeared represented by Counsel at an administrative hearing before the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Marilyn Zahm on July 5, 2006 in Buffalo, New York. (T. 452A-90). In a decision dated August 10, 2007, the ALJ determined that Glover was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. (Tr. 14-25). The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Social Security Appeals Council denied Glover's request for review on January 28, 2008. (Tr. 5-7). On March 14, 2008, Glover filed this action.
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 Glover'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 Glover 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).
To establish disability under the Act, a claimant must demonstrate the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any 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." See 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(1)(A). The statute additionally requires that the claimant's impairment be of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work. §423(d)(2)(A)
In making a determination as to a plaintiff's disability, the Commissioner is required to apply the five-step process set forth in 20 C.F.R. §416.920. The Second Circuit ...