The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge
Plaintiff Scott F. MacLeay ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), claiming that the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") improperly denied his application for Supplemental Security Income benefits("SSI"). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the decision of Administrative Law Judge Marilyn D. Zahn ("ALJ") was not supported by substantial evidence in the record.
The Commissioner moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) ("Rule 12(c)"), on the grounds that the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence. For the reasons set forth herein, I find that the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence, and is in accordance with applicable law, and therefore, I grant the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings.
On August 5, 2003, Plaintiff protectively filed an application for SSI claiming that he became disabled on June 1, 1996. (91-93). Plaintiff claims he suffers from depression, a seizure disorder, breathing problems, a right knee impairment, and right ear deafness. (Tr. 26). Plaintiff's application was denied by the Social Security Administration initially on April 12, 2004. (Tr. 22).
Thereafter, Plaintiff appeared, pro se, at an administrative hearing before ALJ Marilyn D. Zahn on July 18, 2007. (Tr. 21). The ALJ issued a decision on August, 27, 2007, finding Plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Act. (Tr. 18-31). The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Social Security Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on June 30, 2008. (Tr. 8-11). On September 19, 2008, The Appeals Council extended Plaintiff's time to file a civil action. (Tr. 7). On October 15, 2008, Plaintiff timely filed this action. (Plaintiff's Complaint).
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 Mongeur 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).
II. The Commissioner's Decision To Deny The Plaintiff Benefits Was Supported By Substantial Evidence In The Record
The ALJ in her decision found that the Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act during the relevant period from August 3, 2003, the protective filing date, to the date of his incarceration on June 29, 2005. (Tr. 22). In doing so, the ALJ followed the Social Security Administration's five-step sequential analysis. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520.*fn1
Under step one of the process, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 5, 2003. (Tr. 23). At steps two and three, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff's impairments, including asthma/obstructive lung disorder, depression, right ear deafness, alcohol dependence and seizure disorder, were severe within the meaning of the Social Security Regulations, but not severe enough to meet or equal singly or in combination, any of the impairments listed in Appendix 1, Subpart P of Regulations No. 4. (Tr. 24).
Further, at steps four and five, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform low-stress, light work, which is defined by the ability to lift and carry ...