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Stratton v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. New York

October 7, 2014

CHRISTINE M. STRATTON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant

Page 213

For Plaintiff: CHRISTOPHER D. THORPE, ESQ., OF COUNSEL, IACONIS LAW OFFICE, PLLC, Chittenango, NY.

For Defendant: JASON P. PECK, ESQ., OF COUNSEL, OFFICE OF REGIONAL GENERAL COUNSEL, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION REGION II, New York, NY.

Page 214

MEMORANDUM--DECISION and ORDER

DAVID N. HURD, United States District Judge

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Christine M. Stratton (" Stratton" or " plaintiff" ) brings this action pursuant to § § 205(g) and 1631(c)(3) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § § 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), to review a final determination of the defendant Commissioner of Social Security denying her 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.[1]

II. BACKGROUND

Stratton was born in May 1952, making her fifty-eight years old when she filed an application for DIB on August 11, 2010, claiming a period of disability beginning on December 20, 2008. That application was initially denied on October 15, 2010, and plaintiff subsequently requested a hearing. Her DIB application was consolidated with her application for SSI, which she filed on February 18, 2011. In August 2011 plaintiff amended her alleged onset date to May 27, 2010.

After several delays, an Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ) conducted a hearing on January 18, 2012. Stratton appeared by video and was represented by counsel. She claims that she is disabled as a result of increasingly debilitating bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, thoracic outlet syndrome, knee pain, neck spasms and degenerative disc disease, daily headaches, prior cancer of the mouth, and lung problems. During the hearing, she also explained that she is tired throughout the day due to the medication she takes for the neck spasms and because restless leg syndrome keeps her awake at night.

The ALJ rendered a written decision on February 14, 2012, denying Stratton's claims. On March 15, 2012, she appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council. Plaintiff submitted additional evidence to the Appeals Council, including a functional capacity evaluation performed in April 2012 and endorsed by plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Carmine Mastrolia (" Dr. Mastrolia" ), in May 2012. See R. at 6, 496-99.[2] This assessment indicates a more limited functional capacity than that found by the ALJ.

The Appeals Council ultimately denied review on February 7, 2013. Thus, the

Page 215

ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff filed this action on March 22, 2013.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

The scope of a court's review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to determinating 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, 59 S.Ct. 206, 83 L.Ed. 126 (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, 71 S.Ct. 456, 95 L.Ed. 456 (1951)). If the Commissioner's disability determination is supported by substantial evidence, that determination is conclusive. 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 ...


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