United States District Court, E.D. New York
For Vincent Marinello, Plaintiff: Harold Skovronsky, LEAD ATTORNEY, Brooklyn, NY.
For Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant: SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION - GENERIC, LEAD ATTORNEY, Social Security Administration; Robert Randolph Schriver, LEAD ATTORNEY, Social Security Administration, Office of the General Counsel - Region, New York, NY.
DECISION AND ORDER
HON. WILLIAM F. KUNTZ, II, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Plaintiff Vincent Marinello (" Plaintiff) brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § § 405(g)
and 1383(c)(3), alleging that Defendant, the Commissioner of Social Security (the " Commissioner" ), improperly denied Plaintiff's request for Social Security disability benefits and/or Supplemental Security Income (" SSI" ) benefits. Plaintiff filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings requesting that the Commissioner's decision be reversed and disability benefits be granted, or in the alternative, the action be remanded for further administrative proceedings. The Commissioner filed a cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings requesting an order affirming the Commissioner's decision and dismissing this action. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion is DENIED and the Commissioner's motion is GRANTED.
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
In March 2001, Plaintiff sustained severe injuries to the head and face as a result of an automobile accident. See Dkt. 14 (Administrative Record) (" R." ), at 46-47. At the time of the accident, Plaintiff was employed as a plumber. Id. at 36-37. Plaintiff only completed high school through the 10th grade but did receive a general educational development (GED) degree. Id. at 35-36. Plaintiff alleges that he has been disabled since March 26, 2001 due to the severe injuries associated with the automobile accident, which include dizziness, nausea, difficulty opening his mouth, and pain on the side of his face and head. Id. at 29, 37, 46, 162.
Plaintiff filed an application for Social Security disability benefits under Title II and XVIII of the Social Security Act (the " Act" ) on October 26, 2009, and filed an application for SSI benefits on October 28, 2009. Id. at 11. Plaintiff's applications were denied at the initial level on April 29, 2010. Id. at 58-60. Plaintiff thereafter requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ), which was held on January 5, 2011. Id. at 26-55. After the hearing, the ALJ issued a decision on December 22, 2011 finding Plaintiff was not disabled. Id. at 8-21. The Appeals Counsel denied Plaintiff's request for review on May 10, 2013. Id. at 1-4. This denial became the Commissioner's final act.
I. Standard of Review
When a claimant challenges the Social Security Administration's (" SSA" ) denial of disability benefits, the Court's function is not to evaluate de novo whether the claimant is disabled, but rather to determine only " whether the correct legal standards were applied and whether substantial evidence supports the decision." Butts v. Barnhart, 388 F.3d 377, 384 (2d Cir. 2004), amended on reh'g, 416 F.3d 101 (2d Cir. 2005); see also Moran v. Astrue, 569 F.3d 108, 112 (2d Cir. 2009); 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (" The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive[.]" ). Substantial evidence is " more than a mere scintilla" ; it is " such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971) (quoting Consol. Edison Co. of N.Y., Inc. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229, 59 S.Ct. 206, 83 L.Ed. 126 (1938)); Moran, 569 F.3d at 112. The substantial evidence test applies not only to the Commissioner's factual findings, but also to inferences and conclusions of law to be drawn from those facts. See Carballo ex rel. Cortes v. Apfel, 34 F.Supp.2d 208, 214 (S.D.N.Y. 1999) (Sweet, J.). In determining whether the record contains substantial evidence to support a denial of benefits, the reviewing court must examine the entire record,
weighing the evidence on both sides to ensure that the claim " has been fairly evaluated." See Brown v. Apfel, 174 F.3d 59, 62 (2d Cir. 1999) (quoting Grey v. Heckler, ...