United States District Court, N.D. New York
CINDY L. SCHULER, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
GREGORY T. PHILLIPS, ESQ., Segar, Sciortino Law Firm, Rochester, NY, for Plaintiff.
REBECCA H. ESTELLE, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, RICHARD S. HARTUNIAN, United States Attorney, Syracuse, NY, Steven P. Conte, Regional Chief Counsel Social Security Administration, Office of General Counsel, Region II, New York, NY, for Defendant.
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
GARY L. SHARPE, Chief Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Cindy L. Schuler challenges the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), seeking judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) After reviewing the administrative record and carefully considering Schuler's arguments, the Commissioner's decision is reversed and remanded.
On December 14, 2009, Schuler filed applications for DIB and SSI under the Social Security Act ("the Act"), alleging disability since December 3, 2008. (Tr. at 63-69, 97-98, 206-09.) After her applications were denied, ( id. at 101-12), Schuler requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on September 1, 2011, ( id. at 70-96, 114-15). On November 14, 2011, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision denying the requested benefits, which became the Commissioner's final determination upon the Social Security Administration Appeals Council's denial of review. ( Id. at 3-8, 19-41.)
Schuler commenced the present action by filing her complaint on February 6, 2013 wherein she sought review of the Commissioner's determination. (Compl.) The Commissioner filed an answer and a certified copy of the administrative transcript. (Dkt. Nos. 10, 11.) Each party, seeking judgment on the pleadings, filed a brief. (Dkt. Nos. 16, 18.)
Schuler contends that the Commissioner's decision is tainted by legal error and is not supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 16 at 10-21.) Specifically, Schuler claims that the ALJ erred in: (1) determining the materiality of her drug and alcohol use; (2) assessing her credibility; (3) procuring and relying on the opinion of a non-examining medical source; and (4) evaluating the opinion of her treating psychiatrist. ( Id. ) The Commissioner counters that the appropriate legal standards were used by the ALJ and her decision is also supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 18 at 5-11.)
The court adopts the parties' undisputed factual recitations. (Dkt. No. 16 at 6-10; Dkt. No. 18 at 1.)
V. Standard of Review
The standard for reviewing the Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is well established and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standard and the five-step process by which the Commissioner evaluates whether a claimant is disabled under the Act, the court refers the parties to its previous decision in Christiana v. ...