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Jo Grewen v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 27, 2014

BETTY JO GREWEN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MARY MARTHA WITHINGTON, ESQ., LEGAL AID SOCIETY OF NORTHEASTERN NEW YORK, Saratoga Springs, New York, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

ANDREEA L. LECHLEITNER, ESQ., SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION OFFICE OF REGIONAL GENERAL, COUNSEL - REGION II, New York, New York, Attorneys for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

FREDERICK J. SCULLIN, Jr., Senior District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Currently before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings. See Dkt. Nos. 12-13.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act and was given a protective filing date of October 17, 2007. See Dkt. No. 9, Administrative Record ("AR") at 14, 52, 127-33, 141, 184, 218. Plaintiff also filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act and was given a protective filing date of November 13, 2007. See id. at 14, 53, 124-26. The Social Security Administration denied these applications by Notice of Disapproved Claim dated February 27, 2008. See id. at 55-60. On March 17, 2008, Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") to challenge the denial. See id. at 61.

On March 17, 2010, Plaintiff had a hearing before ALJ Robert Ringler in Albany, New York. See id. at 14, 23, 25, 112-23. By decision dated March 26, 2010, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's applications for a period of disability, disability insurance benefits, and Supplemental Security Income benefits. See id. at 11-22. In reaching his decision, the ALJ made the following findings:

1. Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2011.
2. Plaintiff had engaged in substantial gainful activity at certain times since May 27, 2007, the alleged onset date.
3. Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: vertigo, obesity, headaches, and diplopia.
4. Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
5. Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform medium work as defined by 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(c), 416.967(c), but, due to infrequent episodes of dizziness, she would be unable to drive or work around heights or heavy machinery. In addition, she could not perform employment activities requiring strong visual acuity.
6. Plaintiff was capable of performing past relevant work as a retail sales/clerk because this work did not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by her RFC.

Based on these findings, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from May 27, 2007, through the date of the ALJ's decision, March 26, 2010.

By letter dated May 18, 2010, Plaintiff made a timely request, by certified mail, to the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration to review the ALJ's decision. See AR at 8-10. By Notice of Appeals Council Action dated May 12, 2011, which Plaintiff's counsel received on May 19, 2011, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. See id. at 1-5. In support of her appeal, Plaintiff submitted additional treatment records that she obtained from Neurological and Stroke Care covering office visits between December 2, 2009, and April 2, 2010. See id. at 2, 450-73. The Appeals Council considered relevant evidence through the date of the ALJ hearing, March 26, 2010. See id. at 2. However, information after the ALJ's decision did not affect the Appeals Council's decision regarding whether Plaintiff was disabled beginning on or before March 26, 2010. See id.

Having exhausted her administrative remedies, Plaintiff commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and § 1383(c)(3), seeking review of Defendant's final decision. In support of her motion for judgment on the pleadings, Plaintiff argued that the ALJ erred in assessing her credibility and in ...


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