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Sech v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 30, 2015

DAWN MARIE SECH, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

For the Plaintiff: Conboy, McKay Law Firm, LAWRENCE D. HASSELER, Carthage, NY.

For the Defendant: Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, SIXTINA FERNANDEZ, 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.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

GARY L. SHARPE, Chief Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Dawn Marie Sech challenges the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), [1] seeking judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) After reviewing the administrative record and carefully considering Sech's arguments, the Commissioner's decision is reversed and remanded for further administrative proceedings.

II. Background

On October 27, 2010, Sech filed an application for SSI under the Social Security Act ("the Act"), alleging disability since August 1, 2009. (Tr.[2] at 52, 131-40.) After her application was denied, ( id. at 59-62), Sech requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), ( see, e.g., id. at 64-66), which was held on April 10, 2012, ( id. at 25-50). On June 25, 2012, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision denying the requested benefits, ( id. at 9-24), which became the Commissioner's final determination upon the Social Security Administration Appeals Council's denial of review, ( id. at 1-6).

Sech commenced the present action by filing her complaint on October 31, 2013, wherein she sought review of the Commissioner's determination. ( See generally Compl.) The Commissioner filed an answer and a certified copy of the administrative transcript. (Dkt. Nos. 7, 8.) Each party, seeking judgment on the pleadings, filed a brief. (Dkt. Nos. 10, 11.)

III. Contentions

Sech contends that the Commissioner's decision is tainted by legal error and is not supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 10 at 12-23.) Specifically, Sech claims that: (1) the ALJ erred at step two when she failed to properly address Sech's arthritis, kidney problems, migraine headaches, bursitis, anxiety, and depression; (2) the ALJ's determination of Sech's residual functional capacity (RFC) was both legally insufficient and unsupported by substantial evidence because she did not consider Sech's bursitis, arthritis, migraine headaches, and kidney problems, failed to assess exertional limitations discussed in a consultative examiner's opinion, and did not utilize a function-by-function analysis; (3) the ALJ failed to properly assess Sech's credibility; and (4) the ALJ erred at step five by relying on the Medical-Vocational Guidelines. ( Id. ) The Commissioner counters that the appropriate legal standards were used by the ALJ and her decision is also supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 11 at 2-16.)

IV. Facts

The court adopts the parties' undisputed factual recitations. (Dkt. No. 10 at 1-12; Dkt. No. 11 at 2.)

V. Standard of Review

The standard for reviewing the Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)[3] is well established and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standard and the five-step process by which the Commissioner evaluates whether a claimant is disabled under the Act, the court refers the parties to its previous decision in Christiana v. ...


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