United States District Court, W.D. New York
MATT E. GENTRY, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security,  Defendant.
DECISION and ORDER
MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.
Matt E. Gentry ("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 his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). This Court has jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). 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. ##10, 12.
On December 18, 2008, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB alleging disability beginning October 13, 2008, due to herniated nucleus pulposus of the spine with neural impingement, radiculopathy, and radiculitis. T. 95, 105. His application was initially denied, and Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). T. 9.
Plaintiff appeared with counsel before ALJ William M. Weir in Buffalo, New York on October 6, 2010. T. 25-51. Following the hearing, the ALJ found: (1) Plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity since October 13, 2008; (2) he had the severe impairments of lumbar disc herniation and radiculitis; (3) his impairments did not meet or equal the Listings set forth at 20 C.F.R. 404, Subpart P, Appx. 1, and that he retained the residual functional capacity to perform the full range of light work; (4) Plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work; and (5) there was other work that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. Applying Medical-Vocational Rules 202.21 and 202.14, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. Id.
An unfavorable decision was issued on October 21, 2010. T. 13-24. The ALJ's determination became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on March 5, 2012. T. 1-5. This action followed. Dkt.#1.
Plaintiff now moves for judgment on the pleadings arguing that the ALJ's decision was flawed because: (1) Plaintiff's spinal impairments met or medically equaled Listing 1.04A; (2) the RFC finding was based upon factual and legal error; and (3) Social Security Ruling ("SSR") 96-7p was not followed in the credibility evaluation. Pl. Mem. (Dkt. #11) 17-24.
The Commissioner has filed a cross-motion asserting that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision that Plaintiff was not disabled during the period at issue. Comm'r Mem. (Dkt.#12-1).
I. General Legal Principles
A. 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." ...