The opinion of the court was delivered by: Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge
Plaintiff Ronald O. Riley ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act § 216(I) and § 223, seeking review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits. Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") MaryJoan McNamara denying his application for benefits was not supported by substantial evidence contained in the record and was contrary to applicable legal standards.
Plaintiff moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c)("Rule 12(c)") and 42 U.S.C. 405(g) seeking to reverse the Commissioner's decision or, in the alternative, remand to the Commissioner for reconsideration of the evidence. The Commissioner cross-moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 405(g) on grounds that the decision of the ALJ was supported by substantial evidence in the record and was in accordance with the applicable legal standards. This Court finds that the decision of the Commissioner was supported by substantial evidence in the record and was in accordance with the applicable legal standards. Therefore, for the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is hereby granted.
Plaintiff, an industrial laborer, age 46, filed an application on August 24, 2009, for disability and Disability Insurance Benefits under title II, § 216(I) and § 223 of the Social Security Act ("the Act") claiming a disability since September 24, 2007, due to diabetes mellitus, a stomach ulcer, hypertension, ketoacidosis, an injury to his right thumb, an injury to his right leg, depression, and anxiety.*fn1 Plaintiff's application was initially denied by the Social Security Administration ("the administration") on October 19, 2009. Plaintiff then filed a timely request for a hearing on December 21, 2009.
Plaintiff appeared for a hearing, with counsel, before ALJ MaryJoan McNamara on February 10, 2011. Estelle L. Davis, a vocational expert, also testified at the hearing. In a decision dated April 21, 2011, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Social Security Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on August 26, 2011. On October 14, 2011, Plaintiff filed this action.
I. Jurisdiction and Scope of Review
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) grants jurisdiction to district courts to hear claims based on the denial of Social Security benefits. This 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. 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). Section 405(g) thus limits the Court's scope of review to determining whether the Commissioner's findings were supported by substantial evidence, and whether the Commissioner employed the proper legal standards in evaluating the plaintiff's claim. See, Mongeur v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1033, 1038 (2d Cir. 1983) (finding that a reviewing Court does not try a benefits case de novo).
The Commissioner asserts that his decision was reasonable and is supported by substantial evidence in the record and is in accordance with the applicable legal standards. Accordingly, Commissioner 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 a review of 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 Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544 (2007). After reviewing the entire record, this Court finds that the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record, and is in accordance with the applicable legal standards. Therefore, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted, and the Plaintiff's motion is denied.
II. The Commissioner's decision to deny the Plaintiff benefits was supported by substantial evidence in the record.
In her decision, the ALJ adhered to the five step sequential analysis for evaluating Social Security Disability benefits claims, which requires the ALJ to consider:
(1) whether the claimant is engaged in any substantial gainful work activity;
(2)if not, whether the claimant has a severe impairment that significantly limits her ability to work;
(3)whether the claimant's impairment(s) meets or medically equals a listed impairment contained in Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4; if so, claimant is considered disabled;
(4)if not, the ALJ determines whether the impairment prevents the claimant from performing past relevant work; if the claimant has the residual functional capacity ("RFC")to do her past work, she is not disabled;
(5)even if the claimant's impairment(s) prevent her from doing past relevant work, if other work exists in significant numbers in the national economy that accommodates her residual functional capacity and vocational factors, she is not disabled.
See 20 C.F.R. §§404.1520 (a) (i)-(iv) and 416.920(a)(4)(i)-(iv).
At Step One of the sequential evaluation, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged disability onset date. (Transcript of Administrative Proceedings at page 74) (hereinafter "Tr.").
At Step Two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus and chronic neck and shoulder pain. (Tr. at 74). The Plaintiff also had the following non-severe impairments: hypertension, gastroesophageal reflux disease, lower extremity edema, depressive disorder, and drug and alcohol dependence. (Tr. at 75).
At Step Three, the ALJ concluded that although severe, the Plaintiff's impairments due to diabetes mellitus and chronic neck and shoulder pain did not meet or equal, alone or in combination, the criteria listed in ...