The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge
Plaintiff, Aboubakry Sow ("Sow" or "plaintiff"), brings this action pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("The Act") seeking review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for supplemental security income benefits ("SSI"). Specifically, the plaintiff alleges that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), Joseph Rowe, denying his application for benefits was not supported by substantial evidence in the record and was contrary to the applicable legal standards.
The plaintiff moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and 42 U.S.C. section 405(g), seeking reversal of the Commissioner's decision or, in the alternative, remand of this case to the Social Security Administration ("SSA") for further proceedings. The Commissioner cross-moves for judgment on the pleadings on the grounds that the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence. For the reasons set forth below, this Court finds that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record and is in accordance with the applicable legal standards. Accordingly, I grant the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings, and the plaintiff's motion is denied. Plaintiff's complaint is dismissed with prejudice.
On May 31, 2007, the plaintiff filed an application for SSI benefits under 42 U.S.C. § 1382 alleging disability due to mycetoma in his right foot, with an onset date of July 1, 1992. Transcript of the Administrative Proceedings at 13, 16 (hereinafter "Tr."). The plaintiff's application was denied at the initial stage and upon reconsideration. The plaintiff timely requested a hearing before an ALJ, and appeared before Judge Joseph K. Rowe with attorney, Mark Palmiere, on October 29, 2009.
In a decision dated January 15, 2010, the ALJ determined that the plaintiff was not disabled. The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Social Security Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review on March 14, 2011. On May 19, 2011, the plaintiff filed this action.
I. Jurisdiction and Scope of Review 42 U.S.C. section 405(g) grants jurisdiction to Federal District Courts to hear claims based on the denial of Social Security benefits. Matthews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 320 (1976). Additionally, the section directs that when considering such a claim, the Court must accept the findings of fact made by the Commissioner, provided that such findings 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., No. 06-2019-cv, 2007 U.S. App. LEXIS 9396, at *3 (2d Cir. Apr. 24, 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, 229 (1938). Section 405(g) thus limits this Court's scope of review to two inquiries: 1) whether the Commissioner's conclusions are supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole, and (2) whether the Commissioner's conclusions are based upon an erroneous legal standard. Green-Younger v. Barnhard, 335 F.3d 99, 105-06 (2d Cir. 2003); see also Wagner v. Secretary of Health & Human Serv., 906 F.2d 856, 860 (2d Cir. 1990)(holding that review of the Secretary's decision is not de novo and that the Secretary's findings are conclusive if supported by substantial evidence).
The Commissioner asserts that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record and is in accordance with the applicable legal standards, and moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c). Under Rule 12(c), 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 (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 generally Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007).
II. Standard for Entitlement to SSI Benefits The Social Security Act provides that "an individual shall be
considered to be disabled for purposes of this subchapter if he is unable to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months" 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). An individual will only be considered "under a disability" if his impairment is so severe that he is both unable to do his previous work and unable to engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work that exists in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. §1382c(a)(3)(B).
In determining whether or not a claimant is disabled, SSA regulations require the ALJ to perform a five-step sequential evaluation. In doing so, the ALJ must determine:
(1) Whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity;
(2) if not, whether the claimant has a severe impairment which significantly limits his physical or mental ability to do basic work activities;
(3) if the claimant suffers a severe impairment, the ALJ considers whether the claimant has an impairment which is listed in Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulation No. ...