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Stackhouse v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. New York

October 3, 2014

LATOYA T. STACKHOUSE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security [1], Defendant

For LaToya T. Stackhouse, Plaintiff: Elizabeth Ann Haungs, Kenneth R. Hiller, LEAD ATTORNEYS, Law Offices of Kenneth Hiller, Amherst, NY.; Ida M. Comerford, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Kenneth Hiller, PPLC, Amherst, NY.

For Ida M. Comerford, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Kenneth Hiller, PPLC, Amherst, NY.

For Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant, Jason Parkerson Peck, LEAD ATTORNEY, Social Security Administration, New York, NY.; Kathryn L. Smith, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office, Rochester, NY.

DECISION AND ORDER

DAVID G. LARIMER, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff appeals from a denial of supplemental security income and disability insurance 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 February 8 and February 13, 2009, plaintiff filed applications for disability insurance and supplemental security income benefits under Title II of the Social Security

Page 519

Act, alleging a disability onset date of May 6, 2002. Her applications were initially denied. (Administrative Transcript (" T." ) at 11). Plaintiff requested a hearing, which was held on August 2, 2010 via videoconference before Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ) Barry Peffley. (T. 27-62). Following the hearing, the ALJ issued a decision on September 23, 2010, that plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act. Id. That decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied review on July 13, 2012 (T. 1-3).

Plaintiff has moved (Dkt. #9) for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(c), requesting remand of the matter for additional development of the record. The Commissioner has cross moved (Dkt. #10) pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 12(c) for judgment on the pleadings affirming the decision-appealed-from. For the reasons that follow, the Commissioner's motion is denied, plaintiff's motion is granted, and the matter is remanded for further proceedings.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

To determine whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act, the ALJ proceeds through 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). At step one, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful work activity. See 20 CFR § 404.1520(b). If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, the ALJ proceeds to step two, and determines whether the claimant has an impairment, or combination of impairments, that is " severe," e.g., that imposes significant restrictions on the claimant's ability to perform basic work activities. 20 CFR § 404.1520(c). If not, the analysis concludes with a finding of " not disabled." If so, the ALJ continues to step three.

At step three, the ALJ examines whether the claimant's impairment meets or equals the criteria of a listed impairment in Appendix 1 of Subpart P of Regulation No. 4. If the claimant's impairment meets or medically equals the criteria of a listing and meets the durational requirement (20 CFR § 404.1509), the claimant is disabled. If not, analysis proceeds to step four, and the ALJ determines the claimant's residual functional capacity (" RFC" ), which is the ability to perform physical or metal work activities on a sustained basis notwithstanding limitations for the claimant's collective impairments. See 20 CFR § 404.1520(e), (f). Then, the ALJ determines whether the claimant's RFC permits him to perform the requirements of his past relevant work. If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, analysis proceeds to the fifth and final step, wherein 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 20 CFR § 404.1560(c).

The Commissioner's decision that 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); Rivera v. Sullivan, 923 F.2d 964, 967 (2d Cir. 1991). Substantial evidence is defined as " more than a mere ...


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