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Pidkaminy v. Astrue

United States District Court, N.D. New York

January 22, 2013

Randy J. PIDKAMINY, Plaintiff,
v.
Michael J. ASTRUE, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

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Olinsky Law Group, Karen S. Southwick, Esq., Howard D. Olinsky, Esq., of Counsel, Syracuse, NY, for Plaintiff.

Social Security Administration Office of Regional General Counsel, Region II, Monika K. Proctor, Esq., of Counsel, New York, NY, for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

SCULLIN, Senior District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Randy J. Pidkaminy brought this action pursuant to the Social Security Act (the " Act" ), 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying his application for Supplemental Security Income (" SSI" ). See Dkt. No. 1.

Currently before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff protectively filed his SSI application with the Social Security Administration on July 25, 2008. See Administrative Record (" AR" ) at 67, 108-11. In his application, Plaintiff alleged disability commencing on March 8, 1993, stating the following conditions limiting his ability to work: degenerative bone disease, arthritis throughout the body, heart attack, and panic attacks, as well as a broken neck, jaw and arms. See id. at 122. During his

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interview at the Social Security Administration field office, Plaintiff also insisted that the interviewer add to his SSI application that he was legally blind. See id. at 108, 119.

On November 19, 2008, the Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's SSI application based on its determination that Plaintiff was neither disabled nor legally blind. See id. at 70. On November 28, 2008, Plaintiff filed a written request for a hearing. See id. at 74-76. On December 29, 2009, Plaintiff appeared and testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ) John P. Ramos. See id. at 27-66. On March 11, 2010, the ALJ ruled against Plaintiff, finding that he was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. See id. at 21. In his decision, the ALJ made the following findings:

(1) Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 25, 2008, the date he filed his SSI application, see AR at 15 (citing 20 C.F.R. § 416.971 et seq. ).
(2) Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: status post right knee injury and degenerative joint disease of both knees, tachycardia, an anxiety disorder, a panic disorder, and alcohol abuse in remission, see AR at 15 (citing 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c)).
(3) Plaintiff's other conditions— obesity, hypertension, diabetes, a " broken neck," polyarthralgia of the back, and a recent diagnosis of opioid [sic] addiction— did not impose more than mild or slight limitations in functioning and, therefore, were not severe, see AR at 15.
(4) Plaintiff's impairments, whether considered singly or in combination, did not meet or medically equal the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 204, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926), see AR at 16-18.
(5) Plaintiff retained the Residual Functional Capacity (" RFC" ) to lift and/or carry 10 pounds occasionally; lift and/or carry less than 10 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk at least 2 hours out of an 8-hour workday; sit for about 6 hours out of an 8-hour workday; occasionally climb (ramps/stairs), balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; understand, remember, and carry out simple tasks; interact with co-workers and supervisors but should have limited contact with general public; sustain sufficient concentration and focus to maintain regular and continuing employment; and make simple work-related decisions in a low stress environment, see AR at 18.
(6) Plaintiff's " medically determinable impairments could reasonably be expected to cause the alleged symptoms; however, [Plaintiff's] statements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of these symptoms [were] not credible to the extent they [were] inconsistent with the ... [RFC] determination," see AR at 18.
(7) Plaintiff had no past relevant work, was born on March 25, 1962, and was 46 years old, thus falling within the younger individual age category (between ages 45-49) on the date of his SSI application; had a high school education and was able to communicate in English; and that the transferability of Plaintiff's job skills was not an issue because he had not had past relevant work, see AR at 20 (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.965, 416.963, 416.964, 416.968).
(8) Given Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform, see AR at 20-21 (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.969, 416.969(a)).

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(9) Plaintiff was not under a disability, as defined in the Act, since July 25, 2008, the date he filed his SSI application, see AR at 21.

Plaintiff timely filed a Request for Review with the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration. See id. at 7-9. On June 16, 2011, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's Request for Review; and thus the ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision. See id. at 1.

On July 25, 2011, Plaintiff filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3), see Dkt. No. 1, and filed a supporting brief on April 13, 2012, see Dkt. No. 13. Defendant filed an answer on January 26, 2012, see Dkt. No. 8, and a response brief on May 29, 2012, see Dkt. No. 17.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of review

Absent legal error, a court will uphold the Commissioner's final determination if there is substantial evidence to support it. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Supreme Court has defined substantial evidence to mean " ‘ more than a mere scintilla’ " of evidence and " ‘ such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.’ " Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971) (quotation omitted).

To be eligible for SSI, a claimant must show that he suffers from a disability within the meaning of the Act. The Act defines " disability" as an inability to engage in substantial gainful activity (" SGA" ) by reason of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to cause death or last for twelve consecutive months. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(3), 1382c(a)(3)(D). To determine if a claimant has sustained a disability within the meaning of the Act, the ALJ follows a five-step process:

1) The ALJ first determines whether the claimant is engaged in SGA. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(b), 416.972. If so, the claimant is not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(b).
2) If the claimant is not engaged in SGA, the ALJ determines if the claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c). If not, the claimant is not disabled. See id.
3) If the claimant has a severe impairment, the ALJ determines if the impairment meets or equals an impairment found in the appendix to the regulations (the " Listings" ). If so, the claimant is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(d).
4) If the impairment does not meet the requirements of the Listings, the ALJ determines if the claimant can do his past relevant work. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e), (f). If so, he ...

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