The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge
Plaintiff Karen K. Stroud ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), claiming that the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") improperly denied her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplement Security Income benefits ("SSI"). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the decision of Administrative Law Judge Timothy McGuan ("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.
Plaintiff initially filed an application for SSI and DIB on February 11, 2002, claiming the she was disabled due to a hysterectomy, bladder and kidney damage, chronic bronchitis and a herniated disc. (Tr. 29). ALJ Timothy McGuan issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the act on June 19, 2004. Id. There is no evidence that Plaintiff appealed this decision. Id.
On September 27, 2004, the claimant filed a new application, alleging that her disability began on June 19, 2004, the date her initial application was denied. (Tr. 17). She complained of the following impairments: lumbar spine dysfunction, small airway disease, asthma, obstructive sleep apnea and fatigue, carpal tunnel syndrome, inability to use right hand, constant back pain and spasms, and low back pain radiating down both legs. (Plaintiff's Complaint). Her claim was initially denied on November 17, 2004. (Tr. 29). ALJ George Yatron held a video hearing on August 31, 2006, and issued an unfavorable decision on September 28, 2006. Id. The Social Security Appeals Council remanded Plaintiff's case for an adequate evaluation of primary care physician, Dr. William Schueler's opinion, and a further evaluation of Plaintiff's subjective complaints. (Tr. 62-63).
ALJ Timothy McGuan held a second hearing on March 7, 2008 at which the Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified. (Tr. 433- 39). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on April 15, 2008. (Tr. 14-24). This decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on February 27, 2009. (Tr. 6-7). On April 16, 2009, 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 found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of Section 216(I) and 223 of the Act to be eligible for DIB through December 31, 2009. (Tr. 17, 19). The ALJ, however, determined that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act since the alleged onset date of June 19, 2004. (Tr. 17-24). In doing so, the ALJ followed the Social ...