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Genier v. Astrue

May 27, 2010

CRAIGJ. GENIER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
MICHAELJ. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



SYLLABUS BY THE COURT

Appeal from the judgment of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York (Peebles, M.J.) affirming a denial of benefits to the plaintiff by the Commissioner of Social Security. We vacate the judgment and remand for further proceedings.

Per curiam.

Argued: March 9, 2010

Before: LEVAL, SACK, and WESLEY, Circuit Judges.

Plaintiff Craig Genier, an applicant for disability benefits under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. ("the Act"), appeals from the judgment of the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York (Peebles, M.J.), which affirmed the agency's denial*fn1 of benefits. Genier argues that the administrative law judge who rendered the decision of the Commissioner erred by failing to consider all of the relevant evidence. We agree. We accordingly vacate the judgment of the district court and remand the case for further proceedings.

BACKGROUND

Genier filed an application for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits under the Act on April 4, 2006. He alleged that he had been unable to work since August 13, 2005, due to his morbid obesity and related ailments, including, at various times, severe sleep apnea, back pain, and knee pain. The Commissioner denied his application for benefits, and Genier requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). The ALJ conducted a hearing and on May 8, 2008, issued a decision denying Genier's claims. That decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Genier's request for review on September 8, 2008.

Genier commenced an action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York on September 30, 2008, seeking review of the denial of benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c). The district court affirmed the agency's decision, finding that it was supported by substantial evidence, on September 22, 2009.

Evidence

Genier asserted that he became unable to work in August 2005 as a result of morbid obesity and several related impairments, including sleep apnea and mobility and breathing problems. At the time he stopped working, Genier was twenty-seven years old and weighed approximately 400 pounds.

On May 11, 2006, Genier filled out a claimant questionnaire for the Division of Disability Determinations in the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, the state agency charged with adjudication of disability claims on behalf of the federal government. On the questionnaire, Genier described his daily activities. He wrote, in pertinent part, that he "tr[ied] to feed dogs and tr[ied] to let dogs out," but that his "father help[ed] [him] with feeding and letting dogs out." He also wrote that he "tr[ied] to do thing[s] around house, like dishes[,] vacuum[,] etc.,"and "tr[ied] to do [his] own laundry," but that he "need[ed] help" with the laundry because he tired easily, and that he was restricted in other household chores because it was "difficult for [him] to get around."

In November 2007, Genier underwent bariatric surgery. As a consequence of the surgery and related treatments, Genier reduced his weight from 494 pounds in June 2006 to 327 pounds at the time of his hearing before the ALJ, in April 2008. At the hearing, Genier testified that he wished to return to work as soon as his doctor permitted him to do so. Genier testified that he continued to suffer from sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and back pain, but that they had improved significantly with treatment and as a result of his surgery and weight loss. He testified that he continued to suffer from severe knee pain, which caused his knee to give out approximately once a week.

Genier further testified that, as of the time of his hearing, he was sometimes able to clean, cook, and do outdoor chores, including snow shoveling and plowing. He indicated that he had been more substantially limited in these activities prior to his surgery and weight loss. He reported being able to stand or walk for ten ...


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