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Tellechea v. Colvin

United States District Court, Second Circuit

October 10, 2013

HANCA DUQUESNE TELLECHEA, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner, Defendant.

Catherine M. Callery, Esq., Empire Justice Center, Rochester, New York, for the Plaintiff.

Grace M. Carducci, A.U.S.A., Kathryn L. Smith, A.U.S.A., United States Attorney's Office, Rochester, New York, for the Defendant.

DECISION AND ORDER

CHARLES J. SIRAGUSA, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

This Supplemental Security Income case is before the Court on the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings, filed on June 10, 2013, ECF No. 12, and Plaintiff's cross-motion, also for judgment on the pleadings, filed on the same day, ECF No. 14. For the reasons stated below, the Commissioner's decision is reversed and the matter is remanded pursuant to the fourth sentence of 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g).

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Ihanca Duquesne ("Plaintiff") filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits on January 9, 2009. R. 161-66. She alleged the onset of her disability as November 11, 2008. R. 161.[1] The Commissioner denied her application on April 21, 2009. R. 63-77. On June 6, 2009, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). R. 30-32. It was held by video teleconferencing on July 1, 2010, with ALJ Joseph Grow in Baltimore, Maryland. R. 108-34, 152-60. Plaintiff appeared and testified in Rochester, New York. R. 33-60 and was represented by Doris M. Cortes, a paralegal with the Empire Justice Center. A vocational expert also testified. R. 54-59. On August 5, 2010, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim, finding that she could perform work at the sedentary exertional level. R. 10-28.

Plaintiff filed a timely request for Appeals Council review, accompanied by a memorandum of law filed by her representative. R. 9, 216-17. On June 23, 2012, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request to review her claim. R. 1-8. Both sides now move for Judgment on the Pleadings.

STANDARDS OF LAW

Jurisdiction and Scope of Review

Section 405(g) of Title 42, U.S. Code, grants jurisdiction to district courts to hear claims based on the denial of Social Security benefits. Additionally, the 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 (1938). Section 405(g) limits the Court's scope of review to determining whether the Commissioner's findings were supported by substantial evidence. See, Mongeur v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1033, 1038 (2d Cir. 1983) (holding that the reviewing court does not try a benefits case de novo ). The Court is also authorized to review the legal standards employed by the Commissioner in evaluating a plaintiff's claim. The Court must "scrutinize the record in its entirety to determine the reasonableness of the decision reached." Lynn v. Schweiker, 565 F.Supp. 265, 267 (S.D. Tex. 1983) (citation omitted).

Five-step sequential analysis

For purposes of the Social Security Act, disability is the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. Section 423(d)(1)(A); Schaal v. Apfel, 134 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1998).

The SSA has promulgated administrative regulations for determining when a claimant meets this definition. First, the SSA considers whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful employment. If not, then the SSA considers whether the claimant has a "severe impairment" that significantly limits the "ability to do basic work activities. If the claimant does suffer such an impairment, then the SSA determines whether this impairment is one of those listed in Appendix 1 of the regulations. If the claimant's impairment is one of those listed, the SSA will presume the claimant to be disabled. If the impairment is not so listed, then the SSA must determine whether the claimant possesses the "residual functional capacity" to perform his or her past ...

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