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Guile v. Barnhart

June 14, 2010

TABITHA GUILE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
JO ANNE B. BARNHART, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe District Court Judge

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Tabitha Guile challenges the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and seeks judicial review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). (See Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) Upon reviewing the administrative record and carefully considering the arguments, the court affirms the Commissioner's decision.

II. Background

On August 27, 2002, Guile filed applications for DIB and SSI under the Social Security Act (the Act), alleging disability since January 1, 2000. (Tr.*fn1 at 14, 309.) After her application was denied, Guile requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on June 22, 2004. (Tr.at 14.) On September 16, 2004, the ALJ issued a decision denying the requested benefits, which became the Commissioner's final decision upon the Social Security Administration Appeals Council's denial of review. (Tr.at 6-8, 23.)

Guile commenced the present action by filing a complaint on March 12, 2007, seeking review of the Commissioner's determination. (Dkt. No. 1.) The Commissioner filed an answer and a certified copy of the administrative transcript. (Dkt. Nos. 7, 9.) Each party, seeking judgment on the pleadings, filed a brief. (Dkt. Nos. 10, 11.)

III. Contentions

Guile contends that the Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence or the appropriate legal standards. Specifically, Guile claims that: (1) the Appeals Council erred by not remanding the case in light of new and material evidence; (2) the ALJ failed to adequately develop the record in assessing Guile's Residual Functional Capacity (RFC); and (3) the ALJ improperly relied on vocational expert testimony. (See generally Pl. Br., Dkt. No. 10.) The Commissioner counters that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision.

IV. Facts

The evidence in this case is undisputed and the court adopts the parties' factual recitations. (See Pl. Br. at 3-9, Dkt. No. 10; Def. Br. at 1-8, Dkt. No. 11.)

V. Standards of Review

The standard for reviewing the Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C. 405(g), and the five-step process used by the Commissioner in evaluating whether a claimant is disabled under the Act are both well established and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of both the standard of review and the Commissioner's five-step process, the court refers the parties to its previous opinion in Christiana v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., No. 1:05-CV-932, 2008 WL 759076, at *1-2 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 19, 2008).

VI. Discussion

A. New Evidence

Guile first argues that the Appeals Council erred in not remanding the case in light of new evidence. (See Pl. Br. at 11-14, Dkt. No. 10.) This evidence, which was first submitted to the Council, consists of "the treatment notes of neurologist Jonathan Braiman, M.D. dated April 12, 2005 to June 11, 2005 ... and [an] MRI dated April 29, 2005 revealing disc herniation." (See id. at 12.) According to Guile, the Council's refusal to ...


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