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Henninger v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. New York

May 19, 2015

JASON W. HENNINGER, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

DECISION and ORDER

MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.

INTRODUCTION

Jason W. Henninger ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner") denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB").

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. ##11, 12.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed a DIB application on September 16, 2008, alleging disability beginning April 8, 2004, on the basis of dominant right-hand impairment and depression. T. 112-13. His initial application was denied on March 30, 2009, and a hearing was requested before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). T. 68-71. Plaintiff appeared with counsel before ALJ Robert T. Harvey in Buffalo, New York, on October 14, 2010. The ALJ also heard testimony from vocational expert Jay Steinbrenner. T. 33-63.

In applying the familiar five-step sequential analysis as contained in the administrative regulations promulgated by the Social Security Administration, 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 since his alleged onset date of April 8, 2004; (2) he had the severe impairments of obesity, right-hand median nerve dysfunction, and right thumb digital nerve dysfunction; (3) his impairments did not meet or equal the Listings set forth at 20 C.F.R., Part 404, Subpart P, Appx. 1, and that he retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") for medium work with limitations in occasionally feeling with the dominant right hand and not working in areas that were cold and damp; and (4) Plaintiff was able to return to his past work as a shipping clerk and forklift operator. The ALJ then concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. T. 19-32.

The ALJ's determination became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on June 15, 2012. T. 1-6. This action followed. Dkt.#1.

The Commissioner moves for judgment on the pleadings on the grounds that substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's final decision that Plaintiff was not disabled. Comm'r Mem. (Dkt. #11-1) 18-24. Plaintiff has filed a cross-motion alleging that the ALJ improperly dismissed the opinions of Plaintiff's treating physician and that the ALJ failed to make a proper credibility determination. Pl. Mem. (Dkt. #13) 21-25.

For the following reasons, the Commissioner's motion is granted, and the Plaintiff's cross-motion is denied.

DISCUSSION

I. Scope of Review

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." ...


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