United States District Court, N.D. New York
HOWARD OLINSKY, ESQ., OLINKSY LAW GROUP, Counsel for Plaintiff, Syracuse, New York,
GRAHAM MORRISON, ESQ., U.S. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN., OFFICE OF REG'L GEN. COUNSEL - REGION II, Counsel for Defendant, New York, NY.
DECISION and ORDER
GLENN T. SUDDABY, District Judge.
Currently before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by Tony Richard Austin ("Plaintiff") against the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or "the Commissioner") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) are the parties' cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. Nos. 12, 13.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is granted in part and denied in part and Defendant's motion is granted in part and denied in part.
I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND
A. Factual Background
Plaintiff was born on April 17, 1965. He completed high school. Plaintiff worked as laborer. (T. 134.) Generally, Plaintiff's alleged disability consists of an inability to read and write, and depression. (T. 133.) Plaintiff's alleged disability onset date was January 4, 2008 and his date last insured was December 31, 2013. (T. 23.)
B. Procedural History
On June 16, 2009, Plaintiff filed a Title II application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits ("SSD") and a Title XVI application for social security insurance ("SSI"). Plaintiff's application was initially denied, after which he timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("the ALJ"). On June 21, 2010, Plaintiff appeared before the ALJ, Thomas P. Tielens. (T. 33-55.) On September 15, 2010, the ALJ issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act. (T. 18-32.) On September 13, 2011, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (T. 7-12.) Thereafter, Plaintiff timely sought judicial review in this Court.
C. The ALJ's Decision
Generally, in his decision, the ALJ made the following five findings of fact and conclusions of law. First, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had met the insured status through December 31, 2013 and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date. (T. 23.) Second, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of alcohol dependence disorder, cannabis dependence disorder, adjustment disorder, depressive disorder and dependent personality disorder. ( Id. ) Third, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments located in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix. 1. (T. 24.) The ALJ considered Listing 12.02, 12.04, 12.06 and 12.09. ( Id. ) Fourth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform work at all exertional levels; however, he was able to "understand, carry out, and remember simple instructions; respond appropriately to supervision, coworkers, and usual work situations; and deal with changes in a routine work setting." (T. 26.) Fifth, and finally, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work; however, there were jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. (T. 27-28.)
II. THE PARTIES' BRIEFINGS ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION
A. Plaintiff's Arguments
Plaintiff makes four separate arguments in support of his motion for judgment on the pleadings. First, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ improperly determined that he did not meet the Listing at 12.05C. (Dkt. No. 12 at 8-10 [Pl.'s Mem. of Law].) Second, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ's RFC determination was unsupported by substantial evidence because he failed to reconcile the RFC assessment with the opinions of Jeanne Shapiro, Ph.D. and J. Dambrocia, Psychology. ( Id. at 10-12.) Third, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in his assessment of Plaintiff's credibility. ( Id. at 12-15.) Fourth, and lastly, the Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to consult a vocational expert ("VE"). ( Id. at 15-16.)
B. Defendant's Arguments
In response, Defendant makes four arguments. First, Defendant argues that the ALJ properly determined Plaintiff's mental impairment did not satisfy the Listing at 12.05C. (Dkt. No. 13 at 4-6 [Def.'s Mem. of Law].) Second, Defendant argues the ALJ properly assessed Dr. Shapiro and Dr. Dambrocia's opinions. ( Id. at 6-7.) Third, Defendant argues the ALJ properly assessed Plaintiff's credibility. ( Id. at 7-9.) Fourth, and lastly, the Defendant argues the ALJ properly determined jobs existed that Plaintiff could perform. ( Id. at 9-10.)
III. RELEVANT LEGAL STANDARD
A. Standard of Review
A court reviewing a denial of disability benefits may not determine de novo whether an individual 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 Commissioner's determination will only be reversed if the correct legal standards were not applied, or it was not supported by substantial evidence. See Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d 983, 986 (2d Cir. 1987) ("Where there is a reasonable basis for doubt whether the ALJ applied correct legal principles, application of the substantial evidence standard to uphold a finding of no disability creates an unacceptable risk that a claimant will be deprived of the right to have her ...