United States District Court, W.D. New York
For Amy Lynn Rymer, Plaintiff: Jaya Ann Shurtliff, LEAD ATTORNEY, Law Offices of Kenneth Hiller, Amherst, NY.
For Carolyn W. Colvin, Defendant: Mary K. Roach, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. Attorney's Office, Buffalo, NY.
DECISION AND ORDER
HONORABLE MICHAEL A. TELESCA, United States District Judge.
Plaintiff Amy Lynn Rymer (" Plaintiff" ), who is represented by counsel, brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act (" the Act" ), seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (" the Commissioner" ) that Plaintiff was not entitled to Disability Insurance Benefits (" DIB" ) under Title II of the Act or eligible for Supplemental Security Income (" SSI" ) under Title XVI of the Act. This Court has jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § § 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).
Presently before the Court are the parties' motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Dkt.##12, 20. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion is granted, and the Commissioner's cross-motion is denied.
Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on January 22, 2008, and an application for DIB on February 8, 2008, alleging disability since February 1, 2007, due to bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety. T.136-40, 166. Following the initial denial of those applications, Plaintiff requested a hearing, which was held via videoconference
before ALJ Jennifer Whang on November 2, 2010. T.12-34.
Considering the case de novo and applying the five-step analysis contained in the Social Security Administration's regulations, the ALJ made the following findings: (1) Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 1, 2007, her alleged disability onset date; (2) Plaintiff's bipolar disorder, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (" PTSD" ), and personality disorder were severe impairments; (3) her impairments did not meet or equal a listed impairment; and she retained the residual functional capacity (" RFC" ) to perform work at all exertional levels, except that she was limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks, required a low-stress job, and should have only occasional direct interaction with others; (4) Plaintiff could not return to her past relevant work; and (5) Plaintiff could perform work that existed in significant numbers in the national economy. T.42-49.
The ALJ's determination became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied review on May 8, 2012. T.1-4. Plaintiff timely commenced the instant action. Dkt. #1.
I. General Legal Principles
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) grants jurisdiction to district courts to hear claims based on the denial of Social Security benefits. Section 405(g) provides that the District Court " shall have the power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2007). The section directs that when considering such a claim, the Court must accept the findings of fact made by the Commissioner, provided that such findings are supported by substantial evidence in the record.
When determining whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence, the Court's task is " to examine the entire record, including contradictory evidence and evidence from which conflicting inferences can be drawn." Brown v. Apfel, 174 F.3d 59, 62 (2d Cir. 1999) (quoting Mongeur v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1033, 1038 (2d Cir. 1983) (per curiam)). Section 405(g) limits the scope of the Court's review to two inquiries: determining whether the Commissioner's findings were supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole, and whether the Commissioner's conclusions are based upon an erroneous legal standard. Green-Younger v. Barnhart, 335 F.3d 99, 105-06 (2d Cir. 2003).
II. Relevant Medical Evidence
Plaintiff was treated at Niagara Family Health Center beginning in 2007. On March 30, 2007, Plaintiff reported that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and she complained of increased depression, suicidal thoughts, and uncontrolled anger. T.284. She had been prescribed Effexor but it caused her to have difficulty sleeping. T.287. She was advised to take Effexor as early as possible in the morning, and Elavil was prescribed to help her sleep. Id.
On July 3, 2007, Plaintiff complained of worsening depression. She expressed suicidal thoughts, stating that she did not want to live anymore. Plaintiff was crying, had scratches/lacerations on her forearms, and appeared depressed and disheveled. T.197. The nurse practitioner found
that Plaintiff was a threat to herself and required a higher level of care for stabilization. Id. Plaintiff was transported by ambulance to Buffalo General Hospital, where she remained for nine days in the inpatient unit. T.274-75. Upon discharge, Plaintiff was prescribed Elavil, Depakote, and Celexa, and Effexor was discontinued. T.275. ...