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Larocque v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 31, 2015

FAITH J. LAROCQUE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Defendant.

DAVID C. BURAN, ESQ., LAW OFFICES OF DAVID C. BURAN P.C., Colchester, Vermont, Attorney for Plaintiff.

PETER W. JEWETT, ESQ., SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION Office of Regional General Counsel, Region II Attorneys for Defendant.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

MAE A. D'AGOSTINO, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff commenced this action on May 10, 2013, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking review of a decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). See Dkt. No. 1.

On May 10, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB, alleging a disability onset date of August 2, 2008. See Dkt. No. 6, Administrative Transcript ("T.") at 125.[1] This application was denied on July 23, 2010. T. at 75-78. Plaintiff then requested a hearing and appeared with her counsel before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Mary Sparks on July 18, 2011. Id. at 27. On September 20, 2011, ALJ Sparks issued a decision denying Plaintiff's application. See id. at 12-21. Plaintiff subsequently requested review by the Appeals Council and was denied such review on March 7, 2013, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See id. at 1-4.

Presently before the Court are the parties' cross motions for judgment on the pleadings. See Dkt. Nos. 19, 20.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff was born on May 27, 1981, and was 30 years old at the time of the hearing. T. at 31-32. Before August 2, 2008, and until October 2008, Plaintiff reported work as a day care provider for her cousin's children. Id. at 33. Plaintiff testified that she "lasted one month[, ]" but had to "quit because it got too overwhelming for [her], and she could not handle it anymore." Id. Plaintiff further testified that she has not worked since then. Id.

The record evidence in this case is undisputed, and the Court adopts the parties' factual recitations regarding the relevant factual background. Dkt. No. 20 at 3 ("The Commissioner incorporates the statement of facts set forth in Plaintiff's Brief (Pl. Br.) 1-6, as well as the statement facts contained in the ALJ's decision. Tr. 12-21").

III. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standards

1. Five-step analysis

For purposes of SSI and DIB, a person is disabled when he is unable "to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 1382(c)(3)(A). There is a five-step analysis for evaluating disability claims:

First, the [Commissioner] considers whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. If he is not, the [Commissioner] next considers whether the claimant has a "severe impairment" which significantly limits his physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. If the claimant suffers such an impairment, the third inquiry is whether, based solely on medical evidence, the claimant has an impairment which is listed in Appendix 1 of the regulations. If the claimant has such an impairment, the [Commissioner] will consider him disabled without considering vocational factors such as age, education, and work experience; the [Commissioner] presumes that a claimant who is afflicted with a "listed" impairment is unable to perform substantial gainful activity. Assuming the claimant does not have a listed impairment, the fourth inquiry is whether, despite the claimant's severe impairment, he has the residual functional capacity to perform his past work. Finally, if the claimant is unable to perform his past work, the [Commissioner] then determines whether there is other work which the claimant could perform.

Berry v. Schweiker, 675 F.2d 464, 467 (2d Cir. 1982); see also Rosa v. Callahan, 168 F.3d 72, 77 (2d Cir. 1999) (citations omitted). The claimant bears the burden of proof on the first four steps, while the Social Security Administration bears the burden on the last step. Id.

In reviewing a final decision by the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405, the Court does not determine de novo whether a plaintiff is disabled. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3); Wagner v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 906 F.2d 856, 860 (2d Cir. 1990). Rather, the Court must examine the Administrative Record to ascertain whether the correct legal standards were applied, and whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence. See Shaw v. Chater, 221 F.3d 126, 131 (2d Cir. 2000); Schaal v. Apfel, 134 F.3d 496, 500-01 (2d Cir. 1998). "Substantial evidence" is evidence that amounts to "more than a mere scintilla, " and it ...


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