The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge
Sonya Wright ("Plaintiff"), on behalf of her minor son ("K.M."), brings this action pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act, seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). Plaintiff alleges that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), John Costello, was not supported by substantial evidence in the record and was based on erroneous legal standards.
Plaintiff moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure ("Rule 12(c)") seeking to reverse the judgment of the Commissioner and remand for calculation of benefits, or alternatively, for further administrative proceedings. The Commissioner opposes the motion and cross-moves for judgment on the pleadings. For the reasons set forth below, this Court finds that the Appeals Council erred in denying review of the ALJ's determination without explaining why additional evidence submitted by the Plaintiff to the Council was rejected. Further, after considering the whole record including the additional evidence, this Court finds that the record supports a finding of disability. Therefore, this claim is remanded to the Commissioner for calculation and payment of benefits.
Plaintiff, on behalf of K.M., filed an application for supplemental security income benefits on September 17, 2007 alleging disability due to behavioral and emotional problems with an onset date of September 1, 2007. Transcript of the Administrative Proceeding at 101-02 (hereinafter "T."). The claim was initially denied on January 23, 2008. (T. 64-67). Plaintiff then timely filed a written request for a hearing before an ALJ.
(T. 68-69). Plaintiff and K.M. appeared for a hearing held on June 23, 2009 in Rochester, New York. (T. 27-62).
In a decision dated October 26, 2009, the ALJ found that K.M. was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.
(T. 14-26). Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's decision on November 20, 2009. (T. 9-10). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request on December 14, 2010, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (T. 1-5). Plaintiff subsequently filed this action on April 28, 2011.
I. Jurisdiction and Scope of Review
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) grants the district courts jurisdiction over 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." Metropolitan Stevedore Co. v. Rambo, 521 U.S. 121, 149, 117 S. Ct. 1953, 138 L. Ed. 2d 327 (1997) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229, 59 S. Ct. 206, 83 L. Ed. 126 (1938)). The Court's scope of review is limited to whether the Commissioner's findings were supported by substantial evidence in the record, and whether the Commissioner employed the proper legal standards in evaluating the claim. Green-Younger v. Barnhard, 335 F.3d 99, 105-06 (2d Cir. 2003). 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). Pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, judgment on the pleadings may be granted "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, 642 (2d Cir. 1988).
II. The Commissioner's decision to deny benefits is not supported by substantial evidence in the record and contains errors of law.
K.M. was born on December 8, 1993. (T. 53). He is now the oldest of seven children. (T. 43). In 2003, K.M. was removed from his mother's care after allegations of neglect and substance abuse.
(T. 263, 441). Between 2003 and 2007, K.M. was in at least five different foster homes. (T. 262). In the first home, his foster mother had a heart attack. (T. 263). In the second, his brother suffered third degree burns. In the third, K.M. was beaten with a belt. In the fourth, he was not given his ...