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David A. Micheli, Jr v. Michael J. Astrue

September 13, 2011

DAVID A. MICHELI, JR., 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, David Micheli, Jr., ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). Specifically, Plaintiff argues that the decision of the Commissioner is not supported by substantial evidence and requests that this Court reverse the decision or, in the alternative, remand the case to the Social Security Administration for further proceedings.

Commissioner moves for judgment on the pleadings affirming the final decision of the Commissioner denying Plaintiff DIB. Plaintiff opposes the motion and cross-moves for judgment on the pleadings. For the reasons set forth herein, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted and Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings is denied. Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed with prejudice.

Background

Plaintiff met the insured status requirements for purposes of DIB through March 31, 2006. (Tr. 9).*fn1 Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on January 9, 2008, alleging disability since April 1, 2004. The application was denied on May 14, 2008. Plaintiff thereafter requested an administrative hearing. Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), David A. Ettinger conducted a video hearing on March 26, 2010. Plaintiff appeared at the hearing with his attorney, Kevin, J. Bambury, Esq. On April 8, 2010, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the commissioner when the Appeals Council declined to review the matter on October 21, 2010. Id. 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 ALJ's decision to deny Plaintiff benefits was supported by substantial evidence in the record

A. The ALJ's Determination

In his decision, the ALJ adhered to the Social Security

Administration's five step analysis which requires that the ALJ consider the following:

(1) Whether Plaintiff was engaged in substantial gainful work during the relevant period. Plaintiff is not disabled ...


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