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Darryl L. Rugless v. Michael J. Astrue

November 20, 2012

DARRYL L. RUGLESS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Represented by counsel, plaintiff Darryl L. Rugless ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3) and 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) 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 ("SSI"). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") denying his application for benefits was not supported by substantial evidence and was contrary to applicable legal standards.

Plaintiff has moved 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, to remand the matter for reconsideration of the evidence. The Commissioner has cross-moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) on the grounds that the ALJ's was supported by substantial evidence and was legally correct.

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). For the reasons set forth below, 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. Accordingly, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is hereby granted.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed an application on September 11, 2009, for SSI claiming a disability since December 31, 2008, due to a back injury, panic attacks, and chronic pain. At the time he filed his application, Plaintiff was thirty-nine years-old and had performed past work in factory assembly, as a teacher's aid, and as a truck driver/laborer. Plaintiff's application was denied by the Social Security Administration ("the Administration") on November 24, 2009. On December 2, 2009, Plaintiff filed a written request for a hearing.

Plaintiff appeared for the hearing, with counsel, before ALJ Jennifer Whang on May 10, 2011. The ALJ appeared via videoconference. Arthur Brown, a vocational expert, testified by phone at the hearing. In a decision dated June 6, 2011, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the 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 October 26, 2011. On December 19, 2011, Plaintiff filed this action.

DISCUSSION

I. Jurisdiction and Scope of Review

Title 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); see also Moore v. Sec'y of Health and Human Services, 778 F.2d 127, 130 (2d Cir. 1985). 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) (stating that a reviewing court does not decide a benefits case de novo).

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 ...


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