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Bus v. Astrue

April 29, 2010

DAWN M. BUS, 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 Dawn Bus ("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") Karl Alexander, 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 Plaintiff's impairments prevent her from performing substantial gainful activity. The Court finds the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence and is in accordance with applicable law, and therefore the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted, and the plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment is denied.

BACKGROUND

On August 22, 2005, Plaintiff filed an application for disability and disability benefits alleging inability to work beginning December 1, 2004 due to chronic back, neck, and foot pain; lumbar disc disease; depression; headaches; and obesity. The application was denied on January 11, 2006. Plaintiff then filed a timely request for a hearing on January 19, 2006.

Thereafter, Plaintiff appeared with counsel, before the ALJ on June 23, 2006. An impartial vocational expert, Julie A. Andrews also appeared at the hearing. In a decision dated October 20, 2006, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. The decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on May 29, 2008, when the Social Security Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. On June 27, 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. In addition, 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 of the Social Security Act, as Plaintiff did not have an impairment that met or medically equaled a listed impairment in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. The ALJ reasoned Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform medium work; that there exists a significant number of jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform; and that transferability of job skills is immaterial to a disability determination. (R. 3, 5, 9). Therefore she was not disabled under sections 216(I) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act. For the reasons set forth below, I find the ALJ's decision that Plaintiff was not disabled is supported by ...


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