United States District Court, W.D. New York
For Michael McCarthy, Plaintiff: Charles E. Binder, LEAD ATTORNEY, Binder and Binder, P.C., New York, NY.
For Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissionerr of Social Security, Defendant: Tomasina DiGrigoli, LEAD ATTORNEY, Social Security Administration, New York, NY.
For Kathryn L. Smith, U.S. Attorney's Office, Rochester, NY.
DECISION AND ORDER
HONORABLE MICHAEL A. TELESCA, United States District Judge.
Plaintiff, Michael McCarthy (" plaintiff" or " McCarthy" ), brings this action under Title II of the Social Security Act (" the Act" ), claiming that the Commissioner of Social Security (" Commissioner" or " defendant" ) improperly denied his application for disability insurance benefits (" DBI" ).
Currently before the Court are the parties' competing motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's motion is granted and, the Commissioner's motion is denied. This action is remanded to the
Commissioner for calculation and payment of benefits.
On October 27, 2009, plaintiff filed an application for DIB alleging disability as of July 10, 2006 due to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (" COPD" ), depression, anxiety disorder, and the following left shoulder conditions: impingement, partial tear of the distal supraspinatus tendon, and acromioclavicular arthropathy. Administrative Transcript [T.] 71, 72-75, 128-131, 156. Following a denial of that application, a hearing was held at plaintiff's request on June 9, 2011 before administrative law judge (" ALJ" ) Michael W. Devlin. The ALJ heard the testimony of plaintiff and a vocational expert (" VE" ). T. 35-70.
Considering the case de novo and applying the five-step analysis contained in the Social Security Administration's regulations (see 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520, 416.920), the ALJ made the following findings: (1) plaintiff last met the insured status requirements of the Act on June 30, 2009; (2) he did not engage in substantial gainful activity since the date of the onset of his alleged disability, July 10, 2006 through his date of last insured, June 30, 2009; (3) plaintiff's left shoulder impingement, left shoulder partial tear of the distal supraspinatus tendon; left shoulder acromioclavicular arthropathy, COPD, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, and alcohol use were severe impairments through the last date insured; (4) his impairments, singly or combined, did not meet or medically equal the severity of any impairments listed in 20 CFR Part 404; and (5) plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1527(a). T. 23.
With respect to finding number four, the ALJ specifically found that plaintiff's arm and shoulder impairments did not cause the inability to manipulate items effectively, nor did plaintiff's COPD meet the necessary criteria. T 23. The ALJ further found that plaintiff's mental impairments did not meet the " paragraph B" criteria, causing at least two marked limitations or one marked limitation and repeated episodes of decompensation. T. 24.
Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision, and the Appeals Council affirmed on April 26, 2013. T. 1-7. This action ensued.
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: 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. See Green-Younger v. Barnhart, 335 F.3d 99, 105-06 (2d Cir. 2003).
II. Relevant Medical Evidence
In October 2006, plaintiff underwent a chest x-ray at Southview Internal Medicine that showed a " right middle lobe infiltrate." T. 376. In February 2007, plaintiff saw his treating physician Judith Allen, M.D. (" Dr. Allen" ) of the University at Rochester Medical Center (" URMC" ), who diagnosed him with ...