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Wilkes v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. New York

January 5, 2015

EARL WILKES, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, as Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

PETER W. ANTONOWICZ, ESQ., Office of Peter W. Antonowicz, Rome, NY, for the Plaintiff.

DAVID L. BROWN, JOSHUA L. KERSHNER, Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys, HON. RICHARD S. HARTUNIAN, United States Attorney, Syracuse, NY.

Steven P. Conte, Regional Chief Counsel, Social Security Administration, Office of General Counsel, Region II, New York, NY, for the Defendant.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

GARY L. SHARPE, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Earl Wilkes challenges the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), seeking judicial review under 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g). (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) After reviewing the administrative record and carefully considering Wilkes' arguments, the court affirms the Commissioner's decision and dismisses the complaint.

II. Background

On November 25, 2008, Wilkes filed an application for SSI under the Social Security Act ("the Act"), alleging disability since January 1, 2001. (Tr.[1] at 111, 220-26.) After his application was denied, ( id. at 132-35), Wilkes requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on May 21, 2010, ( id. at 78-110). On July 13, 2010, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision denying the requested benefits. ( Id. at 112-26.) At Wilkes' request, the Appeals Council remanded the decision to the ALJ to further evaluate Wilkes' mental impairment and give further consideration to his RFC, as well as obtain testimony from a vocational expert (VE). ( Id. at 127-29, 171.) A second administrative hearing was held on February 3, 2012 and VE testimony was taken. ( Id. at 42-77.) On April 12, 2012, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision again denying the benefits. ( Id. at 21-41.) That decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Wilkes' request for review. ( Id. at 1-7.)

Wilkes commenced the present action by filing his complaint on July 19, 2013 wherein he sought review of the Commissioner's determination. (Compl.) The Commissioner filed an answer and a certified copy of the administrative transcript. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) Each party, seeking judgment on the pleadings, filed a brief. (Dkt. Nos. 15, 17.)

III. Contentions

Wilkes contends that the Commissioner's decision is tainted by legal error and is not supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 15 at 20-23.) Specifically, Wilkes claims that: (1) the residual functional capacity (RFC) determination is not supported by substantial evidence; (2) the ALJ improperly weighed the medical opinions of record; and (3) the ALJ erred in evaluating Wilkes' subjective complaints. ( Id. ) The Commissioner counters that the appropriate legal standards were used by the ALJ and his decision is also supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 17 at 5-17.)

IV. Facts

The court adopts the parties' undisputed factual recitations. (Dkt. No. 15 at ...


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