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Aman v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. New York

September 11, 2014

JACQUELINE LEE AMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security,[1] Defendant

Page 221

For Jacqueline Lee Aman, Plaintiff: Ida M. Comerford, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Kenneth Hiller, PPLC, Amherst, NY.

For Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant: Kathryn L. Smith, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office, Rochester, NY.

Page 222

DECISION AND ORDER

DAVID G. LARIMER, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff appeals from a denial of disability benefits by the Commissioner of Social Security (" the Commissioner" ). The action is one brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to review the final determination of the Commissioner.

On September 28, 2009, plaintiff, then 48 years old, filed applications for disability insurance and Supplemental Security Income (" SSI" ) benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. Plaintiff alleged an inability to work since August 1, 1996, due to depression and psychosis. (T. 113). Her application was initially denied. Plaintiff requested a hearing, which was held on March 3, 2011 before Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ) Michael W. Devlin. (T. 12). The ALJ issued a decision on April 5, 2011, concluding that plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act. (T. 12-22). That decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied review on August 7, 2012. (T. 1). Plaintiff now appeals from that decision. The Commissioner has moved (Dkt. #6), and the plaintiff has cross moved (Dkt. #8) for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(c).

DISCUSSION

Determination of whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act requires a five-step sequential evaluation. See Bowen v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 470-71, 106 S.Ct. 2022, 90 L.Ed.2d 462 (1986). See 20 CFR § § 404.1509, 404.1520. If the ALJ concludes that the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful employment and suffers from a severe impairment, he then examines whether the claimant's impairment meets or equals the criteria of those listed in Appendix 1 of Subpart P of Regulation No. 4. If the impairment does so, and has continued for the required duration, the claimant is disabled. If not, analysis proceeds and the ALJ determines the claimant's

Page 223

residual functional capacity (" RFC" ), which is the ability to perform physical or metal work activities on a sustained basis, notwithstanding limitations for the collective impairments. See 20 CFR § 404.1520(e), (f). If the claimant's RFC permits him to perform relevant jobs he has done in the past, he is not disabled. If not, analysis proceeds to the final step, and the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant is not disabled, by presenting evidence demonstrating that the claimant " retains a residual functional capacity to perform alternative substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy" in light of his age, education, and work experience. See Rosa v. Callahan, 168 F.3d 72, 77 (2d Cir.1999), quoting Bapp v. Bowen, 802 F.2d 601, 604 (2d Cir.1986). See also 20 CFR § 404.1560(c).

The Commissioner's decision that a plaintiff is not disabled must be affirmed if it is supported by substantial evidence, and if the ALJ applied the correct legal standards. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Machadio v. Apfel, 276 F.3d 103, 108 (2d Cir.2002). Substantial evidence is defined as " more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. N.L.R.B., 305 U.S. 197, 229, 59 S.Ct. 206, 83 L.Ed. 126 (1938)). " The Court carefully considers the whole record, examining evidence from both sides 'because an analysis of the substantiality of the evidence must also include that which detracts from its weight.'" Tejada v. Apfel, 167 F.3d 770, 774 (2d Cir. 1998) quoting Quinones v. Chater, 117 F.3d 29, 33 (2d Cir.1997). Nonetheless, " it is not the function of a reviewing court to decide de novo whether a claimant was disabled." Melville v. Apfel, 198 F.3d 45, 52 (2d Cir.1999). " Where the Commissioner's decision rests on adequate findings supported by evidence having rational probative force, [this Court] will not substitute our judgment for that of the Commissioner." Veino v. Barnhart, 312 F.3d 578, 586 (2d Cir.2002).

ALJ Devlin's decision recites detailed findings of fact and recites the bases upon which they rest. Upon careful review of the complete record, I believe that the ALJ applied the correct legal standards, and that his finding that plaintiff is not totally disabled is supported by substantial evidence.

After initially concluding (solely for purposes of plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits) that the plaintiff had not suffered from an impairment prior to her date last insured, the ALJ proceeded to examine plaintiff's application for SSI. He summarized plaintiff's medical records, particularly with respect to depressive disorder and anxiety disorder, which he determined together constituted a severe impairment not meeting or equaling a listed impairment. I believe the evidence supports the ALJ's conclusion that plaintiff, then a forty-eight year old woman with a limited education and past employment as a waitress and house cleaner, was not totally ...


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