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Bavaro v. Astrue

April 8, 2010

BARBARA BAVARO, 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 Barbara Bavaro ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to § 216(i) and § 223 of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), 42. U.S.C § 405(g) seeking review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") Michael Astrue, denying her application for Disability Insurance benefits. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the decision of Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Nancy L. Gregg, denying her application for benefits was erroneous and not supported by the substantial evidence contained in the record or the applicable law.

The Commissioner moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) ("Rule 12(c)"), on the grounds that the Commissioner's decision was based on substantial evidence. Plaintiff opposes the Commissioner's motion, and cross-moves for judgment on the pleadings, or in the alternative to remand the matter for a new hearing on the grounds that the Commissioner failed to demonstrate that there are a substantial number of jobs that exist in the regional and national economy that Plaintiff can perform. The Court finds the Commissioner satisfied this burden, and that the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence and is in accordance with applicable law. Therefore the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted, and Plaintiff's cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings is denied.

BACKGROUND

On October 1, 2004 Plaintiff filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits alleging inability to work beginning February 20, 2004 due to herniated discs and pain in her back, neck, and shoulders, which radiated to her arms and hands. This application was denied on December 16, 2004. Plaintiff then filed a timely request for a hearing on February 4, 2005.

Thereafter, Plaintiff appeared, with counsel, before ALJ Gregg on January 9, 2007. At the hearing, Plaintiff amended her onset date to April 23, 2006. A supplemental hearing was held on February 20, 2007, at which time an impartial vocational expert testified. In a decision dated October 29, 2007, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. The decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on March 28, 2008, when the Social Security Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. On June 2, 2008, 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, Monqeur 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). However, a remand to the Commissioner for further development of the evidence is proper when "there are gaps in the administrative record or the ALJ has applied an improper legal standard." Rosa v. Callahan, 168 F.3d 72, 82-83 (2d. Cir. 1999) (quoting Pratts v. Chater, 94 F.3d 34, 39 (2d Cir. 1980)).

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

The ALJ determined Plaintiff was not disabled under sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act, as Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform work, other than that which she previously performed, that exists in significant numbers in the national economy. Therefore she was "not disabled" under Medical-Vocational Rule 202.15. (R. 35-36). For the reasons set forth below, I find the ALJ's decision that Plaintiff is not disabled is supported by substantial evidence in the record, and is accordance with applicable law. I therefore grant the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings and reject Plaintiff's cross motion.

Plaintiff contends the Commissioner failed to satisfy Step Five of the five step process an ALJ follows when evaluating a claim for disability benefits. (Pl. Mem. at 22). Specifically, Plaintiff claims that the Commissioner failed his statutory burden under 20 ยง CFR 404.1501 to demonstrate that there are a substantial number of jobs that exist ...


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