United States District Court, N.D. New York
PETER W. HILL, ESQ., OFFICE OF PETER W. HILL, Oneonta, NY. Counsel for Plaintiff
BENIL ABRAHAM, ESQ., U.S. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN. OFFICE OF REG'L GEN. COUNSEL - REGION II, Counsel for Defendant New York, NY.
DECISION and ORDER
GLENN T. SUDDABY, District Judge.
Currently before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by Sue Anne Linda Beckwith ("Plaintiff") against the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or "the Commissioner") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) are the parties' cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 11.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is granted and Defendant's motion is denied.
I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND
A. Factual Background
Plaintiff was born on October 14, 1970. She received a high school diploma and is licensed to practice as a licensed practical nurse ("LPN"). Plaintiff has worked as an LPN, certified nurse assistant, photographer and bank teller. Generally, Plaintiff's alleged disability consists of a back condition and depression. Plaintiff's alleged disability onset date is September 16, 2010 and her date last insured is December 31, 2015.
> B. Procedural History
On October 15, 2010, Plaintiff applied for Social Security Disability Insurance. Plaintiff's application was initially denied, after which she timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("the ALJ"). On May 2, 2012, Plaintiff appeared before the ALJ, Barry Ryan. (T. 34-55.) The ALJ issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act on August 7, 2012. (T. 10-33.) On October 31, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (T. 1-6.) Thereafter, Plaintiff timely sought judicial review in this Court.
C. The ALJ's Decision
Generally, in his decision, the ALJ made the following five findings of fact and conclusions of law. (T. 16-27.) First, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date. (T. 16.) Second, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's bulging disc is a severe impairment, but that her other alleged impairments, including her depression, anxiety and adjustment disorder, are not severe. (T. 16-20.) Third, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairment does not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments located in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix. 1. (T. 21.) The ALJ considered Listing 1.04. ( Id. ) Fourth, the ALJ found that, during the course of an eight-hour workday, Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to "lift/carry up to 20 pounds on an occasional basis; lift/carry up to 10 pounds on a frequent basis; stand for a total of six hours; walk for a total of six hours; and sit for a total of six hours." (T. 21-26.) Fifth, and finally, the ALJ determined that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform. (T. 26-27.)
II. THE PARTIES' BRIEFINGS ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION
A. Plaintiff's Arguments
Plaintiff makes three separate arguments in support of her motion for judgment on the pleadings. First, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ did not fulfill his affirmative duty to develop the record. (Dkt. No. 8 at 8-9 [Pl.'s Mem. of Law].) Second, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in weighing the opinions of several medical sources because he (a) improperly gave the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Ellen Larson, little weight in violation of the treating physician rule; (b) erroneously afforded great weight to the opinions of Dr. Charles I. Hancock and Dr. Woodrow W. Janese; and (c) used the opinion of Dr. Justine Magurno inconsistently. ( Id. at 9-15.) Third, and finally, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred when he assessed her credibility. ( Id. at 16-19.)
B. Defendant's Arguments
In response, Defendant makes three arguments. First, Defendant argues that the ALJ properly evaluated the medical opinion evidence. (Dkt. No. 11 at 5-10 [Def.'s Mem. of Law].) Second, Defendant argues that the ALJ properly assessed Plaintiff's credibility. ( Id. at 10-13.) Third, and finally, Defendant argues that the ALJ properly determined that there are a ...