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Andrew v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. New York

July 3, 2014

MARY JO ST. ANDREW, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

Olinsky Law Group, HOWARD D. OLINSKY, ESQ., Syracuse, NY, for the Plaintiff.

HON. RICHARD S. HARTUNIAN, United States Attorney, MARIA P. FRAGASSI, JOSHUA L. KERSHNER SANTANGELO, Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys, Syracuse, NY, Steven P. Conte, Regional Chief Counsel, Social Security Administration Office of General Counsel, Region II New York, NY, for the Defendant.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

GARY L. SHARPE, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Mary Jo St. Andrew 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) and 1383(c)(3). (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) After reviewing the administrative record and carefully considering St. Andrew's arguments, the court affirms the Commissioner's decision and dismisses the complaint.

II. Background

On September 6, 2006, St. Andrew filed applications for DIB and SSI under the Social Security Act ("the Act"), alleging disability since August 31, 2002. (Tr.[1] at 52-53, 87-94.) After her applications were denied, ( id. at 54-61), St. Andrew requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on October 30, 2008 before ALJ J. Michael Brounoff, ( id. at 16-51, 62). On February 4, 2009, ALJ Brounoff issued an unfavorable decision denying the requested benefits. ( Id. at 6-15.) After the Appeals Council's subsequent denial of review, St. Andrew commenced an action in Federal District Court and, on consent of the parties, the matter was remanded for further administrative proceedings. ( Id. at 1-3, 415-16.) Thereafter, the Appeals Council remanded the case to ALJ Robert Gale (hereinafter "the ALJ") who, on December 20, 2011, again denied St. Andrew's claim following additional hearings held on March 29, 2011, and November 22, 2011. ( Id. at 295-373, 417-20.)[2] This became the Commissioner's final determination upon the Appeals Council's denial of review. ( Id. at 291-94.)

St. Andrew commenced the present action by filing her complaint on November 1, 2012 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, 12.) Each party, seeking judgment on the pleadings, filed a brief. (Dkt. Nos. 17, 18.)

III. Contentions

St. Andrew contends that the Commissioner's decision is tainted by legal error and is not supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 17 at 14-23.) Specifically, St. Andrew claims that the ALJ: (1) rendered a residual functional capacity (RFC) determination that is unsupported by substantial evidence; (2) failed to make a proper credibility determination; and (3) improperly determined that she was capable of performing her past relevant work. ( Id. ) The Commissioner counters that the appropriate legal standards were used by the ALJ and his decision is also supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 18 at 5-13.)

IV. Facts

The court adopts the parties' undisputed factual recitations. (Dkt. No. 17 at 2-12; 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)[3] 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. ...


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