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Barbato v. Astrue

July 7, 2010

RAYMOND BARBATO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

Introduction

Plaintiff Raymond Barbato ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), claiming that the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") improperly denied his application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the decision of Administrative Law Judge Brian Kane ("ALJ") was erroneous and not supported by substantial evidence in the record.

Plaintiff 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 not supported by substantial evidence. The Commissioner opposes the Plaintiff's motion, and cross-moves for judgment on the pleadings. 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.

Background

On August 15, 2007, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB, alleging that he became disabled on January 3, 2007, due to a back injury, asthma, and foot disorder. (Tr. 109-13). Plaintiff's claim was initially denied by the Social Security Administration on February 13, 2008. (Tr. 68-71). On May 8, 2009, ALJ Brian Kane held an administrative hearing at which Plaintiff appeared with his attorney Christopher Mesh. (Tr. 24-66). The ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled within the meaning of the Act on June 2, 2009. (Tr. 10-23). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on August 28, 2009. (Tr. 1-3). On October 20, 2009, Plaintiff timely filed this action. (Plaintiff's Complaint).

Discussion

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 his decision found that the Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act from the alleged onset date of January 3, 2007 through June 2, 2009, the date of his decision (13-23). 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 the alleged onset date of January 3, 2007. (Tr. 15). At steps two and three, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff's asthma, lumbar spine disorder, and foot 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 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Id.

At step four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform sedentary work. (Tr. 16). The ALJ found that Plaintiff was incapable of performing his past relevant work as an assembler of small products, oven unloader or janitor. (Tr. 21). Further, Plaintiff had additional limitations, which eroded his ability to perform the full range of activities at the sedentary work level, including limitations on his exposure to pulmonary irritants such as dust, odors and fumes. (Tr. 16). Plaintiff was also required to switch positions every 15 minutes. Id. Therefore, in the fifth step, the ALJ considered Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, RFC, and a vocational expert's ("VE") testimony regarding Plaintiff's additional limitations. (Tr. 21-22). He determined that Plaintiff was able to perform a significant number of jobs in the economy, such as telephone quotation clerk and charge account clerk. Id.

Based on the entire record, including medical evidence, the ALJ properly found that Plaintiff could perform sedentary work with some limitations. Id. Therefore, I find that there is substantial evidence in the record to support the ALJ's finding ...


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