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Brown v. Colvin, (GLS)

United States District Court, N.D. New York

September 16, 2014

ELIZABETH A. BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

Stanley Law Offices, JAYA A. SHURTLIFF, ESQ., Syracuse, NY, Law Offices of Kenneth Hiller, PLLC, KENNETH R. HILLER, ESQ., Amherst, NY, for the Plaintiff.

HON. RICHARD S. HARTUNIAN, United States Attorney, ANDREEA L. LECHLEITNER, TOMASINA DIGRIGOLI, Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys, Syracuse, NY, Steven P. Conte, Regional Chief Counsel, Social Security Administration, New York, NY, for the Defendant.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

GARY L. SHARPE, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Elizabeth A. Brown 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 Brown's arguments, the Commissioner's decision is reversed and remanded.

II. Background

On February 24, 2011, Brown filed applications for DIB and SSI under the Social Security Act ("the Act"), alleging disability since January 1, 2011. (Tr.[1] at 51-52, 110-26.) After her applications were denied, ( id. at 53-60), Brown requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on February 7, 2012, ( id. at 24-49, 64-66). On March 2, 2012, 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 1-6, 8-23.)

Brown commenced the present action by filing her complaint on July 30, 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. 8, 10.) Each party, seeking judgment on the pleadings, filed a brief. (Dkt. Nos. 12, 14.)

III. Contentions

Brown contends that the Commissioner's decision is tainted by legal error and is not supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 12 at 10-17.) Specifically, Brown claims that the ALJ erred in: (1) improperly evaluating her residual functional capacity (RFC); and (2) failing to obtain the testimony of a vocational expert (VE). ( 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. 14 at 4-16.)

IV. Facts

The court adopts the parties' undisputed factual recitations. (Dkt. No. 12 at 2-9; Dkt. No. 14 at 1.)

V. Standard of Review

The standard for reviewing the Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)[2] 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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