United States District Court, W.D. New York
Ida M. Comerford, Jaya Ann Shurtliff, Law Offices of Kenneth Hiller, PPLC, Amherst, NY, for Plaintiff.
Kathryn L. Smith, U.S. Attorney's Office, Rochester, NY, for Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
DAVID G. LARIMER, District Judge.
Plaintiff appeals from a denial of disability benefits by the Commissioner of Social Security (" the Commissioner" ). The action is one brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to review the final determination of the Commissioner.
On June 4, 2009, plaintiff filed applications for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, and supplemental security income under Title XVI. Plaintiff alleged an inability to work since March 15, 2009. (T. 16). Her application was initially denied. Plaintiff requested a hearing, which was held October 8, 2010 before Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ) Brian Kane. (T. 24-72). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on November 8, 2010, concluding that plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act. That decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied review on August 26, 2011 (T. 1-3). Plaintiff now appeals.
The Commissioner has moved, and plaintiff has cross moved, for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(c). For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's motion (Dkt. # 5) is granted, plaintiff's cross motion (Dkt. # 7) is denied, and the complaint is dismissed.
An ALJ proceeds though a prescribed five-step evaluation in determining whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. See Bowen v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 470-71, 106 S.Ct. 2022, 90 L.Ed.2d 462 (1986). At step one, the ALJ determines whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful work activity. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, the ALJ continues to step two, and determines whether the claimant has an impairment, or combination of impairments, that is " severe," e.g., that imposes significant restrictions on the claimant's ability to perform basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). If not, the analysis concludes with a finding of " not disabled." If so, the ALJ proceeds to step three.
At step three, the ALJ examines whether the claimant's impairment meets or equals the criteria of a listed impairment in Appendix 1 of Subpart P of Regulation No. 4. If the impairment meets or medically equals the criteria of a listing and meets the durational requirement (20 C.F.R. § 404.1509), the claimant is disabled. If not, the ALJ's analysis proceeds to step four, and the ALJ determines the claimant's residual functional capacity (" RFC" ), which is the ability to perform physical or metal work activities on a sustained basis notwithstanding limitations for the collective impairments. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e), (f).
The ALJ then turns to whether the claimant's RFC permits her to perform the requirements of her past relevant work. If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, analysis proceeds to the fifth and final step, wherein the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant is not disabled, by presenting evidence demonstrating that the claimant " retains a residual functional capacity to perform alternative substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy" in light of her age, education, and work experience. See Rosa v. Callahan, 168 F.3d 72, 77 (2d Cir.1999) ( quoting Bapp v. Bowen, 802 F.2d 601, 604 (2d Cir.1986)). See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1560(c).
The Commissioner's decision that plaintiff is not disabled must be affirmed if it is supported by substantial evidence, and if the ALJ has applied the correct legal standards. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Machadio v. Apfel, 276 F.3d 103, 108 (2d Cir.2002). Substantial evidence is defined as " more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a ...