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William E. v. Commissioner of Social Security

September 26, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Randolph F. Treece United States Magistrate Judge


In this action, Plaintiff William E. Felter, III, moves, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for review of a decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying his application for Period of Disability (POD) and Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB).*fn1 Based upon the following discussion, the Commissioner's decision denying Social Security benefits is upheld.


William Felter, III, born on November 7, 1972, filed for DIB and POD on June 26, 2008. Dkt. No. 8, Admin. Transcript [hereinafter "Tr."] at pp. 96-99. That same date, he protectively filed for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits . Id. at pp. 93-95. In both applications, Felter alleged that he became disabled and unable to work on December 31, 2002. Id. at pp. 93-99. Felter had filed a prior disability application, which was denied in October 1998.*fn2 Id. at p. 19 & 100. Felter completed his education through the eighth grade and has no relevant past work experience that would rise to a level of significant gainful activity. Id. at pp. 24, 31, & 126.

On November 7, 2008, Felter's applications were initially denied. Id. at pp. 56 & 57. A Hearing was held on March 26, 2010 (Tr. at pp. 26-52), before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Terrence Farrell who, on April 27, 2010, issued a partially favorable decision finding, for purposes of DIB and POD, that Felter was not disabled prior to June 30, 1992, the date he was last insured, but, for purposes of SSI, he was disabled as of June 26, 2008, the date he protectively filed for SSI (Tr. at pp. 15-25).*fn3 On April 14, 2011, after receiving further evidence from Felter, the Appeals Council denied Felter's request to review the ALJ's decision, thus rendering the ALJ's decision the final determination of the Commissioner. Id. at pp. 1-4. Exhausting all of his options for review through the Social Security Administration's tribunals, Plaintiff now brings this appeal.


A. Standard of Review

Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the proper standard of review for this Court is not to employ a de novo review, but rather to discern whether substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's findingsand that the correct legal standards have been applied. See Rivera v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 964, 967 (2d Cir. 1991); Urtz v. Callahan, 965 F. Supp. 324, 325-26 (N.D.N.Y. 1997) (citing, inter alia, Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d 983, 985 (2d Cir. 1987)). Succinctly defined, substantial evidence is "more than a mere scintilla," it is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Consol. Edison Co. of New York v. N.L.R.B., 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938).

The ALJ must set forth the crucial factors supporting the decision with sufficient specificity. Ferraris v. Heckler, 728 F.2d 582, 587 (2d Cir. 1984). Where the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence, the court may not interject its interpretation of the administrative record. Williams ex rel. Williams v. Bowen, 859 F.2d 255, 258 (2d Cir. 1988); 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Where the weight of the evidence, however, does not meet the requirement for substantial evidence or a reasonable basis for doubt exists as to whether correct legal principles were applied, the ALJ's decision may not be affirmed. Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d at 986.

B. Determination of Disability

To be considered disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act, a plaintiff must establish an "inability 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 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). Furthermore, the claimant's physical or mental impairments must be of such severity as to prevent engagement in any kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy. Id. at § 423(d)(2)(A).

In determining whether a claimant is disabled, the Commissioner follows a five-step analysis set forth in the Social Security Administration Regulations:

1. At Step One, the Commissioner considers the claimant's work activity; if the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, he or she will be found not disabled;

2. At Step Two, the Commissioner considers the "medical severity" of the claimant's impairment(s); if the claimant does not suffer from a severe ...

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