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Fax v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. New York

June 24, 2015

DON FAX, SR., Plaintiff,

OFFICE OF PETER M. MARGOLIUS PETER M. MARGOLIS, ESQ., Catskill, New York, Attorneys for Plaintiff.

SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION FERGUS J. KAISER, ESQ. Office of Regional General Counsel Region II New York, New York, Attorneys for Defendant


MAE A. D'AGOSTINO, District Judge.


Plaintiff commenced this action on May 6, 2014, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking review of a decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). See Dkt. No. 9, Administrative Transcript ("T."), at 16-38.


Plaintiff's date of birth is August 21, 1969, and he was forty-three years old at the time of the administrative hearing. See T. at 42. Plaintiff received his high school diploma, and he completed one and one-half years of college. See id. at 45-46. Plaintiff's relevant work history indicates that he did not have any reported income between the years of 1997 and 2002. See id. at 150-56. In the year 2003, Plaintiff worked at the Friar Tuck Inn of the Catskill, Inc. and Kaz USA, Inc., and he continued his employment with Kaz USA, Inc. through 2005 where he was an assembly line worker. See id. at 47-51, 150-56. Plaintiff did not have any reported income between the years 2006 and 2012. See id. at 150-56. Plaintiff was incarcerated from December 18, 2009 through February 9, 2011. See id. at 157-58. Although the dates are not clear from his testimony, Plaintiff worked as a roofer "off the books" up until 2009. See id. at 46-47. Plaintiff claims that he did not work as a roofer after 2009 despite evidence in his medical records to the contrary. See id. at 47-48

On January 30, 2012, Plaintiff protectively filed an application for SSI, alleging a disability onset date of September 17, 2008. See id. at 159. Plaintiff claimed that his ability to work is limited by right knee injury, mental illness, neck injury, spine injury, and shoulder injury. See id. at 163. The application was initially denied on May 3, 2012. See id. at 84-89. Plaintiff requested a hearing, which was held on February 28, 2013 before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Michelle S. Marcus. See id. at 39-79. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on July 3, 2013. See id. at 16-38.

The ALJ determined the following: (1) Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 30, 2012;[1] (2) Plaintiff has severe impairments of cervical disc disease - status post cervical decompression, discectomy and fusion, right cubital tunnel syndrome - status post ulnar nerve decompression, and left shoulder osteoarthritis with adhesive capsulitis; (3) Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals a listed impairment of 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 ("listed impairment"); (4) Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b) with additional restrictions for his upper extremities and environment; (5) Plaintiff's RFC does not allow him to perform any of his past relevant work; and (6) there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the Plaintiff can perform taking into consideration Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC. See T. at 16-38. Thus, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from January 30, 2012 through the date of the decision. See id. at 16-38.

Request for review by the Appeals Council was timely filed, and, on March 12, 2014, the request was denied, rendering the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision. See id. at 1-6, 11-12. Plaintiff commenced this action for judicial review of that decision by filing a complaint on May 6, 2014, see Dkt. No. 1, and both parties have now moved for judgment on the pleadings. See Dkt. Nos. 11, 12. Having reviewed the parties submissions and the administrative record, the Court orders that the Commissioner's decision is affirmed.


A. Standard of Review

In reviewing a final decision by the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405, the Court does not determine de novo whether a plaintiff 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). The Court must examine the Administrative Transcript to determine whether the correct legal standards were applied, and whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence. See Lamay v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 562 F.3d 503, 507 (2d Cir. 2009); Schaal v. Apfel, 134 F.3d 496, 500-01 (2d Cir. 1998). "A court may not affirm an ALJ's decision if it reasonably doubts whether the proper legal standards were applied, even if it appears to be supported by substantial evidence." Barringer v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 358 F.Supp.2d 67, 72 (N.D.N.Y. 2005) (citing Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d 983, 986 (2d Cir. 1987)). "Substantial evidence" is evidence that amounts to "more than a mere scintilla, " and it has been defined to be "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citations and quotation marks omitted).

If supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's factual determinations are conclusive, and it is not permitted for the courts to substitute their analysis of the evidence. See Rutherford v. Schweiker, 685 F.2d 60, 62 (2d Cir. 1982) (stating that the Court "would be derelict in our duties if we simply paid lip service to this rule, while shaping [the Court's] holding to conform to our own interpretation of the evidence"). In other words, this Court must afford the Commissioner's determination considerable deference, and may not substitute "its own judgment for that of the [Commissioner], even if it ...

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