United States District Court, N.D. New York
OLINSKY LAW GROUP HOWARD D. OLINSKY, ESQ., Syracuse, NY, Attorneys for Plaintiff.
TOMASINA DIGRIGOLI, ESQ., OFFICE OF REGIONAL GENERAL COUNSEL, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION REGION II, New York, NY, Attorneys for Defendant.
MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER
DAVID N. HURD, District Judge.
Plaintiff David Wayne Manchester ("Manchester" or "plaintiff") brings this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking review of defendant Commissioner of Social Security's ("Commissioner" or "defendant") final decision denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). The parties have filed their briefs, including the Administrative Record on Appeal, and the matter has been submitted for decision without oral argument.
On January 18, 2011, Manchester filed applications for DIB and SSI claiming a period of disability beginning on November 1, 2010 as a result of his seizure disorder, right eye blindness, and loss of smell. R. at 129-141. These applications were initially denied on April 15, 2011, and plaintiff timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). Id . 54-61.
On March 6, 2012, ALJ Marie Greener presided over an administrative hearing in Syracuse, New York, and Manchester, represented by an attorney, appeared and testified by video in Watertown, New York. R. at 32-50. Plaintiff's testimony established, in relevant part, that he suffered a serious head injury in 1998 after falling from a roof while working for a construction company. Id . Plaintiff further testified that he is nearly blind in his right eye, and that he now suffers from nocturnal episodes of seizures that cause him to feel exhausted the next day. Id . 45. Plaintiff indicated that although he takes medication for these seizures, they still occur approximately two to three times per month. Id . Plaintiff also testified that, approximately once a week, he suffers from a headache that may cause him to feel dizzy and force him to lie down. Id . 46.
On March 26, 2012, ALJ Greener rendered a written decision concluding that Manchester was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act from November 1, 2010, through the date of her decision. R. at 18-27. Plaintiff timely appealed this unfavorable disability determination to the Appeals Council. Id . 13. On February 25, 2013, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review. Id . 1-3. On March 18, 2013, Manchester filed this action seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's denial of benefits. Because the parties are familiar with the underlying facts, they are discussed only to the extent necessary to address plaintiff's appeal.
III. LEGAL STANDARD
A. Scope of Review
A court's review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to determining whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence and the correct legal standards were applied. Poupore v. Astrue , 566 F.3d 303, 305 (2d Cir. 2009) (per curiam). "Substantial evidence means more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Id . (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB , 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)).
"To determine on appeal whether an ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence, a reviewing court considers the whole record, examining the evidence from both sides, because an analysis of the substantiality of the evidence must also include that which detracts from its weight." Williams v. Bowen , 859 F.2d 255, 258 (2d Cir. 1988) (citing Universal Camera Corp. v. NLRB , 340 U.S. 474, 488 (1951)). If the Commissioner's disability determination is supported by substantial evidence, that determination is conclusive. See id. Where evidence is deemed susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's decision must be upheld-even if the court's independent review of the evidence may differ from the Commissioner's. Rutherford v. Schweiker , 685 F.2d 60, 62 (2d Cir. 1982); Rosado v. Sullivan , 805 F.Supp. 147, 153 (S.D.N.Y. 1992).
However, "where there is a reasonable basis for doubting whether the Commissioner applied the appropriate legal standards, " the decision should not be affirmed even though the ultimate conclusion reached is arguably supported by substantial evidence. Martone v. Apfel , 70 F.Supp.2d 145, 148 ...