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Gumaer v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. New York

February 24, 2014

MICHAEL GUMAER, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Comm'r of Soc. Sec., Defendant.

PETER A. GORTON, ESQ., LACHMAN & GORTON, Endicott, NY, Counsel for Plaintiff.

ELIZABETH D. ROTHSTEIN, ESQ., U.S. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN. OFFICE OF REG'L GEN. COUNSEL-REGION II, New York, NY., Counsel for Defendant.

DECISION and ORDER

GLENN T. SUDDABY, District Judge.

Currently before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by Michael Gumaer ("Plaintiff") against the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or "the Commissioner") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) are the parties' cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings, as well as Plaintiff's reply brief, which was filed with permission of the Court. (Dkt. Nos. 12, 13, 16.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is granted and Defendant's motion is denied.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

Plaintiff was born on October 18, 1967. Plaintiff has completed education through the eighth grade, earned his general equivalency diploma, and completed a few semesters of college. He is able to communicate in English. Plaintiff has worked for brief periods of time as a dishwasher and as a chef in fast food restaurants. Generally, Plaintiff's alleged disability consists of Guillian-Barre syndrome, diabetes and depression. His alleged disability onset date is October 13, 1993.

B. Procedural History

On November 24, 2009, Plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income. Plaintiff's application was initially denied, after which he timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("the ALJ"). On January 4, 2011, Plaintiff appeared before the ALJ, Barry E. Ryan. (T. 23-34.) On February 14, 2011, the ALJ issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act. (T. 6-22.) On July 24, 2012, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (T. 1-7.) Thereafter, Plaintiff timely sought judicial review in this Court.

C. The ALJ's Decision

Generally, in his decision, the ALJ made the following six findings of fact and conclusions of law. (T. 11-17.) First, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his application date. (T. 11.) Second, the ALJ found that, at all relevant times, Plaintiff's Guillian-Barre syndrome and diabetes were severe impairments. (T. 11-14.) Third, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's severe impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments located in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix. 1. (T. 14.) The ALJ considered Section 11.00 of the Listings. Fourth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform the full range of light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b). Specifically, the ALJ found that Plaintiff can "lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally, ten pounds frequently, sit for six hours in an eight-hour day, stand for six hours in an eight-hour day, and walk for six hours in an eight-hour day." (T. 14-16.) The ALJ further concluded that Plaintiff "has no mental, postural, environmental, communicative, visual or manipulative limitations." ( Id. ) Fifth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has no past relevant work. (T. 17.) Sixth, and finally, the ALJ found that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the Plaintiff can perform. ( Id. )

II. THE PARTIES' BRIEFINGS ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION

A. Plaintiff's Arguments

Plaintiff makes four separate arguments in support of his motion for judgment on the pleadings. First, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in assessing medical opinions regarding his tremors and manipulative limitations. (Dkt. No. 12 at 10-14 [Pl.'s Mem. of Law].) Second, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to properly assess his credibility. ( Id. at 14-18.) Third, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to consider lay witness testimony. ( Id. at 18.) Fourth, and finally, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to consider the combined effects of his impairments and incorrectly assessed his RFC. ( Id. at 18-19.)

B. Defendant's Arguments

In response, Defendant makes two arguments. First, Defendant argues that the ALJ properly considered the medical opinions of record and that Plaintiff's RFC is supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 13 at 4-13 [Def.'s Mem. of Law].) Second, Defendant argues that the ALJ properly assessed Plaintiff's credibility. ( Id. at 13-16.)

In reply to Defendant's response, Plaintiff makes two arguments. First, Plaintiff argues that Defendant admits that the ALJ mischaracterized the medical evidence, but fails to correctly analyze the effect of this failure at each step of the ALJ's determinations. (Dkt. No. 16 at 1-3 [Pl.'s Reply Mem. of Law].) Second, Plaintiff argues that the Defendant would have the Court improperly re-weigh the evidence ...


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