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Woods v. Commission of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 27, 2014

RONALD A. WOODS, Plaintiff,

GREGORY R. GILBERT, ESQ., AMDURSKY, PELKY, FENNELL & WALLEN, P.C., Oswego, New York, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

REBECCA H. ESTELLE, ESQ., SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Office of General Counsel Region II, New York, New York, Attorney for Defendant.


MAE A. D'AGOSTINO, District Judge.


Plaintiff Ronald A. Woods brings the above-captioned action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking a review of the Commissioner of Social Security's decision to deny his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). Presently before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings. See Dkt Nos. 8, 11.


On August 8 and 22, 2008, Plaintiff protectively filed an application for DIB and SSI, respectively, alleging a disability onset date of September 5, 2007. See Dkt. No. 6, Administrative Transcript ("T."), at 67-76. On November 25, 2008, Plaintiff's applications were denied. See T. 30-35. Upon Plaintiff's request, Administrative Law Judge Gale held a hearing on September 12, 2011, see T. 38, and issued a decision denying Plaintiff's claims for benefits on February 10, 2012, see T. 11-22. Thereafter, Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals Council, which review was denied on August 24, 2012, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. See T. 6-9.

Plaintiff was 53 years old at the time of the ALJ's decision. See T. 20. Plaintiff had a limited education, and had worked as a muffler/brake repair technician. See id. Plaintiff alleges disability as a result of lumbar spine degenerative disc disease, hypertension and hyperlipidemia, history of pneumonia, obesity, coronary artery disease, sleep disturbance, and learning disability. See T. 16-17.


For purposes of both DIB and SSI, a person is disabled when he is unable "to engage in substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. §§ 423 (d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). There is a five-step analysis for evaluating disability claims:

"In essence, if the Commissioner determines (1) that the claimant is not working, (2) that he has a severe impairment, ' (3) that the impairment is not one [listed in Appendix 1 of the regulations] that conclusively requires a determination of disability, and (4) that the claimant is not capable of continuing in his prior type of work, the Commissioner must find him disabled if (5) there is not another type of work the claimant can do." The claimant bears the burden of proof on the first four steps, while the Social Security Administration bears the burden on the last step.

Green-Younger v. Barnhart, 335 F.3d 99, 106 (2d Cir. 2003) (quoting Draegert v. Barnhart, 311 F.3d 468, 472 (2d Cir. 2002)) (other citations omitted).

In reviewing a final decision by the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405, the court does not determine de novo whether a plaintiff is disabled. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3); Wagner v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 906 F.2d 856, 860 (2d Cir. 1990). Rather, the court must examine the Administrative Transcript to ascertain whether the correct legal standards were applied, and whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence. See Shaw v. Chater, 221 F.3d 126, 131 (2d Cir. 2000); Schaal v. Apfel, 134 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1998). "Substantial evidence" is evidence that amounts to "more than a mere scintilla, " and it has been defined as "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).

If supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's finding must be sustained "even where substantial evidence may support the plaintiff's position and despite that the court's independent analysis of the evidence may differ from the [Commissioner's]." Rosado v. Sullivan, 805 F.Supp. 147, 153 (S.D.N.Y. 1992). In other words, this Court must afford the Commissioner's determination considerable deference, and may not substitute "its own judgment for that of the [Commissioner], even if it might justifiably have ...

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