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Bridges v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. New York

May 28, 2014

EDDIE L. BRIDGES, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

KENNETH R. HILLER, ESQ, Law Offices of Kenneth Hiller, Amherst, New York Attorneys for Plaintiff.

WILLIAM J. HOCHUL, JR., United States Attorney, Western District of New York, GAIL Y. MITCHELL, AUSA, of Counsel, Buffalo, New York Attorneys for Defendant.

JOHN T. CURTIN, Sr., District Judge.

This matter was transferred to the undersigned for all further proceedings, by order of Chief United States District Judge William M. Skretny dated November 14, 2013 (Item 15).

Plaintiff Eddie L. Bridges initiated this action pursuant to Section 405(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to review the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner") denying plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") and Disability Insurance benefits ("DIB"). The Commissioner has filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Item 9) and the plaintiff has filed a cross motion requesting the same relief (Item 10). For the following reasons, the Commissioner's motion is granted and plaintiff's motion is denied.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on October 24, 1953 (Tr. 82).[2] He applied for SSI and DIB on April 21, 2009, alleging disability as of February 25, 2009 due to congestive heart failure and arthritis (Tr. 148). Plaintiff's application was denied on August 11, 2009 (Tr. 85-89). Plaintiff then requested a hearing, which was held on November 5, 2010 before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Nancy Gregg Pasiecznik (Tr. 41-80). Plaintiff testified at the hearing and was represented by counsel.

By decision dated July 28, 2011, the ALJ found that plaintiff was not under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act (Tr. 15-33). The ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final determination when the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-4).

Plaintiff then filed this action on January 9, 2013, pursuant to the judicial review provision of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). On August 16, 2013, the Commissioner filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings arguing that the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence (Item 9). On August 19, 2013, the plaintiff cross-moved for the same relief, arguing that the ALJ erred in not finding him disabled ( see Item 10). Neither party filed a response to the motions.

DISCUSSION

I. Scope of Judicial Review

The Social Security Act states that upon district court review of the Commissioner's decision, "the findings of the Commissioner... as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive...." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is defined as evidence which "a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938), quoted in Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); see also Tejada v. Apfel, 167 F.3d 770, 773-72 (2d Cir. 1999). Under these standards, the scope of judicial review of the Commissioner's decision is limited, and the reviewing court may not try a case de novo or substitute its findings for those of the Commissioner. Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401. The court's inquiry is "whether the record, read as a whole, yields such evidence as would allow a reasonable mind to accept the conclusions reached" by the Commissioner. Sample v. Schweiker, 694 F.2d 639, 642 (9th Cir. 1982), quoted in Winkelsas v. Apfel, 2000 WL 575513, at *2 (W.D.N.Y. February 14, 2000).

However, "[b]efore the insulation of the substantial evidence test comes into play, it must first be determined that the facts of a particular case have been evaluated in light of correct legal standards." Klofta v. Mathews, 418 F.Supp. 1139, 1141 (E.D. Wis. 1976), quoted in Gartmann v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 633 F.Supp. 671, 680 (E.D.N.Y. 1986). The Commissioner's determination cannot be upheld when it is based ...


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