United States District Court, Northern District of New York
ANTHONY D. STEVENSON, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
THOMAS J. McAVOY Senior United States District Judge
Plaintiff Anthony D. Stevenson brought this suit under § 205(g) of the Social Security Act (“Act”), as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to review a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying his application for supplemental security income (SSI) benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Plaintiff alleges that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") denying the applications for benefits is not supported by substantial evidence and contrary to the applicable legal standards. The Commissioner argues that the decision is supported by substantial evidence and made in accordance with the correct legal standards. Pursuant to Northern District of New York General Order No. 8, the Court proceeds as if both parties had accompanied their briefs with a motion for judgment on the pleadings.
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on August 9, 2010 (Tr. 124-125). This application was denied on December 9, 2010 (Tr. 79-81). Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a hearing by an ALJ (Tr. 91-93). Plaintiff appeared and testified before ALJ Arthur Patane on October 19, 2011 (Tr. 36-54). The ALJ then considered the case de novo and, on January 6, 2012, found that Plaintiff was not disabled (Tr. 21-31). Plaintiff sought review from the Appeals Council (Tr. 15). On July 26, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review, making the ALJ’s decision the final decision of the Commissioner (Tr. 1-3). This action followed.
The parties do not dispute the underlying facts of this case. The Court assumes familiarity with these facts and will set forth only those facts material to the parties’ arguments.
III. THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION
The ALJ engaged in the required five-step analysis to determine whether a claimant qualifies for disability benefits. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The ALJ found at step one that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 9, 2010, the application date (Tr. 23). The ALJ found at step two that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: lumbar disorder, obesity, left eye blindness, and borderline intellectual functioning (Tr. 23). The ALJ found at step three that, since the application date, Plaintif f did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments set forth at 20 C.F.R. Subpart P, Appendix 1 (Tr. 26-27). The ALJ then found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 416.967(b) except that Plaintiff was precluded from performing complex tasks and work requiring depth perception, full field of vision, or hazardous equipment (Tr. 27-29). The ALJ found at step four that Plaintiff had no past relevant work (Tr. 30). The ALJ considered Plaintiff’s age, education, work experience, and RFC at step five and determined that there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform (Tr. 30). The ALJ thus found that Plaintiff was not disabled (Tr. 30).
IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW
The Court's review of the Commissioner's determination is limited to two inquiries. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). First, the Court determines whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standard. See Tejada v. Apfel, 167 F.3d 770, 773 (2d Cir. 1999); Balsamo v. Chater, 142 F.3d 75, 79 (2d Cir. 1998). Second, the Court must determine whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence in the administrative record. See Tejada, 167 F.3d at 773; Balsamo, 142 F.3d at 79. A Commissioner's finding will be deemed conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also Townley v. Heckler, 748 F.2d 109, 112 (2d Cir. 1984)("It is not the function of a reviewing court to determine de novo whether a Plaintiff is disabled. The [Commissioner's] findings of fact, if supported by substantial evidence, are binding.")(citations omitted). In the context of Social Security cases, substantial evidence consists of "more than a mere scintilla" and is measured by "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)(citation omitted).
Where the record supports disparate findings and provides adequate support for both the Plaintiff's and the Commissioner's positions, a reviewing court must accept the ALJ's factual determinations. See Quinones v. Chater, 117 F.3d 29, 36 (2d Cir. 1997)(citing Schauer v. Schweiker, 675 F.2d 55, 57 (2d Cir. 1982)).
The Plaintiff offers three grounds for challenging the ALJ’s conclusions. ...