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Wavercak v. Commissioner of Social Security

June 25, 2010

MICHAEL P. WAVERCAK, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Michael P. Wavercak challenges the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) 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 November 9, 1998, Wavercak filed an application for DIB under the Social Security Act (the Act), alleging disability since March 21, 1998, based on a cervical disc herniation caused by a motor vehicle accident. (Tr.*fn1 at 71-73, 76.) After his application was denied, Wavercak requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on December 7, 1999. (Tr.at 18.) On June 13, 2000, the ALJ issued a decision denying the requested benefits, and the Social Security Administration Appeals Council denied review of that decision. (Tr. at 5-7, 15-26.) Wavercak then commenced a civil action challenging the ALJ's decision, and, by Order dated June 8, 2004, the case was remanded for further administrative proceedings. (Tr. at 357-58.) Pursuant to the Order, the Appeals Council vacated the decision and remanded the case to an ALJ. (Tr. at 392.) On remand, Wavercak appeared and testified before an ALJ. (Tr. at 839-70.) On November 23, 2005, that ALJ issued a decision denying the requested benefits, which became the Commissioner's final decision upon the Appeals Council's denial of review. (Tr.at 6-8, 23.)

Ultimately, Wavercak commenced the present action by filing a complaint on May 3, 2007, seeking review of the Commissioner's November 23 decision. (Dkt. No. 1.) The Commissioner filed an answer and a certified copy of the administrative transcript. (Dkt. Nos. 7, 8.) Each party, seeking judgment on the pleadings, filed a brief. (Dkt. Nos. 10, 11.)

III. Contentions

Wavercak contends that the Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence or the appropriate legal standards. Specifically, Wavercak claims that: (1) the ALJ failed to properly apply the treating physician rule in assessing Wavercak's residual functional capacity (RFC); (2) the ALJ failed to properly analyze Wavercak's credibility; and (3) the ALJ improperly relied on vocational expert testimony at step five. (See Pl. Br. at 15-22, 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 3-12, Dkt. No. 10; Def. Br. at 1-12, 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. Treating ...


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