The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles J. Siragusa United States District Judge
Plaintiff Patrick J. Reda ("Reda"), brings this action pro se pursuant to the Social Security Act, (codified in relevant parts at 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. and 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq.) claiming that the Commissioner of Social Security improperly denied his application for disability and supplemental income security benefits for the period from December 31, 2003, to present. Specifically, Reda alleges that the decision of an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") was erroneous and not supported by substantial evidence contained in the record, or was contrary to law.
The Commissioner moves, (Docket No. 8), for judgment on the pleadings, contending that substantial evidence in the record supports the decision to deny benefits. Reda has cross-moved (Docket No. 13), also for judgment on the pleadings. Because the Court determines that the findings of the Commissioner are not supported by substantial evidence contained in the record, the Commissioner's application is denied, and Reda's motion is granted.
On April 13, 2006, at age 25, Reda filed for disability insurance and supplemental security income benefits. Reda alleged that his disability began on December 31, 2003. He claims he is unable to work as a result of myofascial pain syndrome and depressive disorder. Reda's application was initially denied on August 22, 2006, and he requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), which took place on August 8, 2008, in Rochester, New York. Reda was represented at the hearing by Jere Fletcher, Esq.
In a decision dated September 5, 2008, the ALJ found that although Reda suffered from a severe combination of impairments, specifically myofascial pain syndrome, he nonetheless retained the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work with limitations (only occasionally can Reda "engage in stooping, crawling, climbing, crouching, balancing, and kneeling; the claimant has only enough concentration and attention to understand simple instructions and engage in simple task [sic]; and, the claimant can not stand and walk for more than one hour per day.") (Record 18.)
On October 30, 2008, the Appeals Council denied Reda's appeal, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. On December 30, 2008, Reda filed an appeal pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) with this Court.
Jurisdiction and Scope of Review
Section 405(g) of Title 42, U.S. Code, 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, 229 (1938). Section 405(g) thus limits the Court's scope of review to determining whether the Commissioner's findings were supported by substantial evidence. See, Mongeur v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1033, 1038 (2d Cir. 1983) (holding that the 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 a 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). Five-step sequential analysis
For purposes of the Social Security Act, disability is the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); Schaal, 134 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1998).
The SSA has promulgated administrative regulations for determining when a claimant meets this definition. First, the SSA considers whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful employment. If not, then the SSA considers whether the claimant has a "severe impairment" that significantly limits the "ability to do basic work activities. If the claimant does suffer such an impairment, then the SSA determines whether this impairment is one of those listed in Appendix 1 of the regulations. If the claimant's impairment is one of those listed, the SSA will presume the claimant to be disabled. If the impairment is not so listed, then the SSA must determine whether the claimant possesses the "residual functional capacity" to perform his or her past relevant work. Finally, if the claimant is unable to perform his or her past relevant work, then the burden shifts to the SSA to prove that the claimant is capable of performing "any other work."
Schaal, 134 F.3d at 501 (citations omitted).
The ALJ's Physical Residual Functional Capacity Determination Is Not Supported ...