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Hernan J. Santiago v. Michael J. Astrue

June 24, 2011

HERNAN J. SANTIAGO, 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 Hernan J. Santiago ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) challenging the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's claim for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act").

Commissioner moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) ("Rule 12(c)") on the grounds that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge, Lamar W. Davis ("ALJ"), was supported by substantial evidence in the record. Plaintiff opposes Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) arguing that the ALJ's decision was not based on substantial evidence and was contrary to the applicable legal standards.

For the reasons set forth herein, I find that the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence in the record. Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted, and Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed with prejudice.

Background

On January 11, 2006, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI, alleging disability starting on October 1, 2005, due to anxiety, panic attacks, depression, ulcers, asthma, high blood pressure and face and leg injuries. (Tr. at 14, 79).*fn1 The Commissioner initially denied Plaintiff's claims. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a written request for a hearing before an ALJ, which was held on April 18, 2008, in Buffalo, NY.

In a decision dated June 25, 2008, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act since January 11, 2006. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. On August 14, 2009, Plaintiff filed this action.

Discussion

1. Jurisdiction and Scope of Review

42 U.S.C. § 405(g) grants jurisdiction to district courts to review claims based on the denial of Social Security benefits. Matthews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 320, 96 S.Ct. 893, 47 L.Ed.2d 18 (1976). The section directs the district 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 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) therefore limits this Court's review to two main inquiries: (i) whether the Commissioner's conclusions are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole, and (ii) whether the Commissioner's conclusions are based upon an erroneous legal standard. Green-Younger v. Barnhart, 335 F.3d 99, 105-06 (2d Cir. 2003).

The Commissioner moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c). Section 405(g) states that the district court "shall have power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2009). Judgment on the pleadings may be granted under Rule 12(c) where the material facts are not in dispute and where judgment on the merits is possible given the contents of the pleadings. Sellers v. M.C. Floor Crafters, Inc., 842 F.2d 639, 642 (2d Cir. 1988). If, after reviewing the record, the Court is convinced that Plaintiff has not set forth a plausible claim for relief, judgment on the pleadings may be appropriate. See Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007).

After reviewing the entire record, this Court finds that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence and is in accordance with the applicable legal standards. Therefore, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted, and Plaintiff's motion is denied.

II. Standard for Entitlement to Benefits

A disability, under the Social Security Act, is defined as the "inability to engage in substantial gainful activity by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected ...


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