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SHAWNA P. DOMBERT v. MICHAEL J. ASTRUE

December 1, 2010

SHAWNA P. DOMBERT, 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, Shawna P. Dombert ("Plaintiff"), brings this action pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act")seeking review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying Plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence in the record. The Commissioner contends that there is substantial evidence in the record to support his decision to deny Plaintiff SSI benefits. Both the Plaintiff and the Commissioner move for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) ("Rule 12(c)").

After reviewing the entire record, this Court finds that the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence in the record. Therefore, for the reasons set forth below, the Commissioners motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted, and the Plaintiff's motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and SSI on February 21, 2008 alleging disability due to back pain, arthritis, depression, anxiety, high blood pressure and a foot deformity. See Transcript of Administrative Proceedings ("Tr.") at 43. In her application, Plaintiff alleged an onset date of January 24, 2008, the day after a previous application for disability benefits was denied by an administrative law judge. See Tr. at 16. Plaintiff subsequently withdrew her application for DIB, and her claim for SSI was initially denied on March 16, 2008. Id. Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing, and the hearing was held in Corning, N.Y. on March 17, 2009 before Administrative Law Judge Michael W. Devlin ("ALJ"). Id. Plaintiff appeared, with counsel, and testified at the hearing. Id.

The ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim for SSI on June 1, 2009, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. The Social Security Appeals Counsel denied further review on September 17, 2009. Plaintiff then filed this action on October 29, 2010.

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. When considering these cases, this section directs the Court to accept the findings of fact made by the Commissioner, provided that such findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record. Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Consolidated Edison Co. V. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938). The Court's scope of review is limited to whether or not the Commissioner's findings were supported by substantial evidence in the record, and whether the Commissioner employed the proper legal standards in evaluating the plaintiff's claim. See Monger v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1033, 1038 (2d Cir. 1983) (finding a reviewing Court does not try a benefits case de novo). 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 Plaintiff moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c), on the grounds that the ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial evidence in the record and is not in accordance with the applicable legal standards. The Commissioner claims that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record and moves for judgment on the pleadings to affirm this decision. 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).

If after reviewing the record, the court determines that a plaintiff has not plead "sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to 'state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face,'" judgment on the pleadings may be appropriate. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S. ----, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1940, (2009) (quoting Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544,(2007)). This Court finds that there was substantial evidence in the record for the ALJ to find that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Therefore, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted, and Plaintiff's motion is denied.

II. There is Substantial Evidence in the Record to Support the Commissioner's Decision that the Plaintiff was not ...


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