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Andrea M. Calabrese v. Michael J. Astrue

June 28, 2011

ANDREA M. CALABRESE, 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, Andrea Calabrese ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). Specifically, Plaintiff requests that this Court give greater weight to certain medical evidence.

Commissioner moves for judgment on the pleadings affirming the final decision denying Plaintiff DIB and SSI. For the reasons set forth herein, the final decision of the Commissioner is affirmed. Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted and Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings is denied.

Background

Plaintiff filed for DIB and SSI on June 19, 2006 with an alleged onset date of June 18, 2005. (Tr. 81).*fn1 The Social Security Administration ("SSA") denied Plaintiff's application on November 2, 2006. (Tr. 64-65). Thereafter, Plaintiff, with her attorney, Albert Rottaris, Esq., attended an administrative hearing in front of ALJ Lamar W. Davis ("ALJ") on November 19, 2008. (Tr. 523). The ALJ found that was not disabled within the meaning of the Act in his January 15, 2009 decision. (Tr. 8-19). On April 24, 2009, the Appeals Council declined to review the ALJ's decision, which became the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 2-4). This action followed.

Discussion

I. Jurisdiction and Scope of Review

Title 42, Section 405(g) of the United States Code grants this Court the power to review the decision of the Commissioner and, if appropriate, remand the matter for further proceedings. See Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 320, 96 S.Ct. 893, 47 L.Ed.2d 18 (1976). Section 405(g) additionally directs this Court to accept the Commissioner's findings of fact so long as they are supported by substantial evidence in the record. See Bubnis v. Apfel, 150 F.3d 177, 181 (2d Cir. 1998); see also Williams v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 2007 U.S.App. LEXIS 9396 at *3 (2d Cir. 2007). "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). 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). Section 405(g) thus limits the Court's review to two inquiries: (1) whether the Commissioner's decision was supported by substantial evidence in the record and, (2) whether the Commissioner's decision was based upon an erroneous legal standard. See Green-Younger v. Barnhart, 335 F.3d 99, 105-06 (2d Cir. 2003). Under section 405(g), this Court's review of the Commissioner's decision is not de novo, and is limited to an inquiry as to whether the Commissioner's decision was supported by substantial evidence. See Wagner v. Secretary of Health & Human Serv., 906 F.2d 856, 860 (2d Cir. 1990).

Both Plaintiff and Commissioner move for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Section 405(g) states that, "[t]he 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." Under Rule 12(c), "[j]udgment on the pleadings is appropriate where material facts are undisputed and where a judgment on the merits is possible merely by considering the contents of the pleadings." See Sellers v. M.C. Floor Crafters, Inc., 842 F.2d 639, 642 (2d Cir. 1988) (citing National Fidelity Life Ins. Co. v. Karaganis, 811 F.2d 357, 358 (7th Cir. 1987)). Remand to the Commissioner for further development of the evidence is warranted when the record contains gaps which render the final decision of the Commissioner inappropriate. See Butts v. Barnhart, 388 F.3d 377, 385 (2d Cir. 2005).

II. The Commissioner's decision to deny the Plaintiff benefits was supported by substantial evidence in the record.

In his decision, the ALJ adhered to the Social Security Administration's five step analysis which includes:

(1) considering Plaintiff's work activity during the relevant period. If Plaintiff was engaged in substantial gainful work during the relevant period, Plaintiff is not disabled.

(2) If Plaintiff is not currently doing substantial gainful work, the ALJ considers whether Plaintiff has a severe medically-determinable physical or mental impairment that may result in death or is expected to last or has lasted for a period of 12 months or more ("the duration requirement"), or ...


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