RENEE E. GLADLE, Plaintiff,
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
Lawrence D. Hasseler, Esq., Conboy, McKay, Bachman & Kendall, LLP, Watertown, New York, Attorneys for Plaintiff.
Rebecca H. Estelle, Richard S. Hartunian, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York, Syracuse, New York, Stephen P. Conte, Regional Chief Counsel, Region II Office of General Counsel Social Security Administration, New York, New York, Attorneys for Defendant.
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
NORMAN A. MORDUE, Senior District Judge.
Plaintiff Renee E. Gladle brings the above-captioned action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the Social Security Act, seeking review of the Commissioner of Social Security's decision to deny her application for disability insurance benefits. Plaintiff claims that degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis and depression have rendered her disabled. Presently before the Court are the parties' motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff filed two applications for disability insurance benefits: the first on April 2, 2003 ("first application"); and the second on June 23, 2005 ("second application"). In both applications, plaintiff alleged a disability onset date of April 2, 2003. The Commissioner denied plaintiff's first application but partially granted plaintiff's second application, finding plaintiff disabled as of January 29, 2005. Plaintiff sought judicial review of the Commissioner's denial of her first application. See Gladle v. Astrue, No. 7:05-CV-797, 2008 WL 4411655 (N.D.N.Y. Sep. 23, 2008) (" Gladle I").
In Gladle I, the Court found: (1) that the ALJ properly applied the treating physician rule and that substantial evidence supported his decision to give less than controlling weight to the opinion of plaintiff's treating physician; (2) that the ALJ properly assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC"); (3) that the ALJ applied the correct legal standard when evaluating the credibility of plaintiff's complaints of disabling pain and that his finding that plaintiff's complaints were not "entirely credible" was supported by substantial evidence; and (4) that, in view of plaintiff's nonexertional limitations, the ALJ should have elicited vocational expert testimony to determine whether she had the ability to perform other work. Gladle I, 2008 WL 4411655. Accordingly, the Court remanded the matter "for consideration of other evidence and/or vocational expert testimony on the issue of the impact of Plaintiff's nonexertional impairments on her ability to perform other work existing in significant numbers in the national economy". Id. at *7.
On January 22, 2009, pursuant to the Court's remand order, the Appeals Council returned the first application to the ALJ for "further proceedings consistent with the order of the court." T. 694. In the same order, the Appeals Council affirmed the ALJ's decision to grant plaintiff's second application for disability insurance benefits. It explained:
On June 23, 2005, the claimant filed a subsequent claim for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits. On December 7, 2007, an [ALJ] issued a favorable decision. He found that the claimant had the following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus, type II; degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine and of the lumbosacral spine. The [ALJ] then found that the claimant retained the residual functional capacity to perform the full range of sedentary work; and that Medical Vocational Rule 201.14 directs a finding that the claimant is disabled. In his decision the [ALJ] noted that the claimant had filed a prior claim which was denied by an [ALJ] on January 28, 2005. The [ALJ] indicated that he could only address the period from January 29, 2005 to present. Therefore, he found that the claimant was disabled as of January 29, 2005.
Upon reviewing the evidence of record in the subsequent claim, the Appeals Council concludes that the [ALJ's] decision is supported by the record. Therefore, the Appeals Council affirms the decision [regarding the second application]. However, the Appeals Council notes that the [ALJ] only considered the period from January 29, 2005 to the date of his decision, and not the period prior to the other [ALJ's] decision. The Appeals Council concludes, as required by the District Court Order, that further development is necessary for the period prior to January 29, 2005. Therefore the [ALJ] will address only the period from April 2, 2003 through January 28, 2005.
On February 25, 2010, the ALJ held a hearing at which plaintiff and a vocational expert testified. T. 802-38. On April 7, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision again finding that plaintiff was not disabled. With the exception of finding, in accordance with Gladle I, that plaintiff could not perform the full range of light work due to her nonexertional impairments,  the ALJ reached the same conclusions at each of the first four steps of the five-step disability analysis.
At step one, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the relevant time period. T. 684. At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine and degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine with spondylosis. T. 684. At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled a listed impairment. T. 686. At ...