United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION and ORDER
MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.
Plaintiff Sherry Zoe Corbeil ("Plaintiff"), who is represented by counsel, brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act ("the Act"), seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner") denying her application for Supplemental Security Income Benefits ("SSI"). This Court has jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c). Presently before the Court are the parties' motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Dkt. ##12, 13.
On April 23, 2009, Plaintiff filed an SSI application alleging disability beginning June 30, 2001, due to psychosis, depression, anxiety, and lower back pain. T. 121-130. Plaintiff's initial application was denied, and she subsequently requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). T. 87-93. A hearing was held in Buffalo, New York before ALJ William M. Weir on February 7, 2011, during which Plaintiff testified and was represented by counsel. T. 29-56. Following the hearing, ALJ Weir issued a written decision on May 25, 2011, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. T. 19-39.
In applying the familiar five-step sequential analysis, as contained in the administrative regulations promulgated by the Social Security Admnistration, see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; Lynch v. Astrue, No. 07-CV-249, 2008 WL 3413899, at *2 (W.D.N.Y. Aug. 8, 2008) (detailing the five steps), the ALJ found: (1) Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity ("SGA") since the application date of April 23, 2009; (2) she had the severe impairment of major depressive disorder with psychotic features; (3) her impairment did not meet or equal the Listings set forth at 20 C.F.R. 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, and that she retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, limited to simple, repetitive tasks without more than occasional public contact; (4) she was able to perform her past relevant work as a dishwasher. The ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled since April 23, 2009. T. 18-23.
The ALJ's determination became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on December 19, 2011. T. 1-6. This action followed. Dkt.#1.
Plaintiff now moves for judgment on the pleadings on the grounds that: (1) the RFC assessment was not supported by substantial evidence and the ALJ failed to follow the "treating physician rule, "; (2) the ALJ did not use the appropriate legal standards in evaluating Plaintiff's subjective complaints; and (3) the ALJ erred in finding Plaintiff capable of her past work. Pl. Mem. (Dkt. #12-1) 1.
The Commissioner has filed a cross-motion arguing that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's finding of no disability. Comm'r Mem. (Dkt. #14) 15-28.
For the following reasons, Plaintiff's motion is granted, and the Commissioner's motion is denied.
I. General Legal Principles
A federal court should set aside an ALJ decision to deny disability benefits only where it is based on legal error or is not supported by substantial evidence. Balsamo v. Chater, 142 F.3d 75, 79 (2d Cir. 1998). "Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Green-Younger v. Barnhart, 335 F.3d 99, 106 (2d Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted).
II. Medical Evidence
Plaintiff was hospitalized for five days in June, 2008, on an emergency basis due to increasing confusion and agitation along with auditory hallucinations. T. 215. There, she described being under "under a lot of stress, " had an erratic sleep pattern, poor appetite, and difficulty with concentration and attention span. Id . She reported hearing voices about a month prior, which were confusing to her. Id . She had previous hospitalizations for depression and overdose within the past ten years. Id.
Upon examination, Plaintiff was reasonably cooperative, mildly perplexed, and appeared to be distracted, but was not grossly disorganized and did not have a grossly impaired sense of reality. Id . She was treated with her regular dose of Celexa and was given a small dose Risperdal, an anti-psychotic medication. Id . At discharge, ...