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Figueroa v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. New York

March 10, 2015

ISRAEL FIGUEROA, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN[1], Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

WILLIAM F. KUNTZ, II, District Judge.

This is a review of a denial of Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"). Israel Figueroa ("Plaintiff') commenced this action pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a final decision the Commissioner which denied his application for SSL Before the Court are motions for judgment on the pleadings from both parties. For the reasons set forth below, the Plaintiffs motion is DENIED, the Commissioner's cross-motion is DENIED, and the case is REMANDED for review consistent with this opinion.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff is a fifty-two-year-old Hispanic man who was born on January 1, 1963 in Puerto Rico. Dkt. 1 ("Compl.") at ¶9; Dkt. 12 ("P's Memo in Support") at 1. He attended school until the ninth grade, at which point he left school and has not returned. Compl. at ¶10; Dkt. 21 ("Admin. Record") at 42, 670. He held a variety of manual labor jobs between 1995 and 2008, including as a furniture mover, a salesperson, a cashier, and a security guard. Compl. at ¶10; Admin. Record at 320, 322, 384, 396-400. He has not been employed since 2008, when he quit his job in construction because he felt weak and tired. P's Memo in Support at 2; Admin. Record at 329.

Plaintiff claims to suffer from various medical issues related to his back, including peripheral neuropathy, disc desiccation, compressed nerve roots, spinal canal stenosis, and a herniated disc. Compl. at ¶11; Admin. Record at 403-04, 633, 643, 701-02, 722, 724-27, 898-903, 936. The pain caused by these conditions has required Plaintiff to walk using a cane, to need to lie down during the day, and to have limited range of motion of his spine. Compl. at ¶12; Admin. Record at 700, 704, 712, 901, 937.

In addition to his spine conditions, Plaintiff has Hepatitis C, is human immunodeficiency virus ("HIV") positive, and claims to have suffered from psychiatric issues for years. Id. at ¶13-14; Admin. Record at 379, 419, 631, 635, 670-71, 899, 915. At various times, Plaintiff has been diagnosed with a depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, psychotic disorder, and a dysthymic disorder. Admin. Record at 422, 426-29, 905, 915. Plaintiff has attempted to commit suicide more than once. Compl. at ¶14; Admin. Record at 419-20, 455, 633, 670, 677. Plaintiff also has a past history of drug use, but has been enrolled in a methadone clinic since July 2010. Admin. Record at 420-22, 432, 631, 678, 700, 765, 833, 915, 926. As of the time Plaintiff filed this motion, he has remained in compliance with treatment. Compl. at ¶15.

Plaintiff applied for SSI on August 17, 2010, when he was forty-seven years old. Compl. at ¶4. After obtaining a full administrative review, Plaintiff's claim was denied in a decision after an administrative hearing on April 25, 2012. Id. at ¶2. The Social Security Appeals Council denied his request for review on August 1, 2012, making the April 25, 2012 decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Id.

Plaintiff filed his appeal from this denial of SSI in the district court on October 1, 2012. Compl. Plaintiff filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings on April 17, 2013. See P's Memo in Support. Plaintiff moves the Court to reverse the final decision of the Commissioner and remand solely for the calculation of benefits. Id. at 17-19. Plaintiff moves for reversal on the grounds that (1) the ALJ incorrectly assessed the medical evidence from Plaintiffs treating physicians and (2) the ALJ incorrectly evaluated the Commissioner's proof that there were other jobs that Plaintiff could perform. Id. at 8-17.

Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, ("Commissioner") filed a cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings on May 17, 2013. Dkt. 19 ("D's Cross-Motion"). Commissioner moves the court to affirm the final decision of the Commissioner. Id. at 48-49.

DISCUSSION

I. Legal Standards

A. Standard of Review

The Court's review of a final decision by the Commissioner "is a deferential one, limited to verifying that the correct legal standards were applied and that the decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record." Geronimo v. Colvin, 13-CV-8263, 2015 WL 736150, at *4 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 20, 2015) (Carter, J.) (citing Beauvoir v. Chafer, 104 F.3d 1432, 1433 (2d Cir. 1997)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Substantial evidence must be "more than a mere scintilla, " and has been defined by the Supreme Court as "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. (citing Talavera v. Astrue, 697 F.3d 145, 151 (2d Cir. 2012)) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). The plaintiff bears ...


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