United States District Court, N.D. New York
JONATHAN P. FOSTER, ESQ., JONATHAN P. FOSTER, Counsel for Plaintiff, Sayre, PA.
AMANDA LOCKSHIN, 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 Jessica Sindoni on behalf of her minor daughter, T.S. ("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. 11, 16.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is granted, and Plaintiff's motion is denied.
I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND
A. Factual Background
Plaintiff was born on June 16, 2011. (T. 101) At the time of her hearing, she was in fourteen months old. (T. 36.) Plaintiff's alleged disability consists of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn ("PPHN"). (T. 105.)
B. Procedural History
On July 19, 2011, Plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income on T.S.'s behalf. Plaintiff's application was initially denied, after which she timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("the ALJ"). On September 13, 2012, Plaintiff appeared before ALJ Marie Greener. (T. 33-48.) On November 13, 2012 ALJ Greener issued a written decision finding T.S. not disabled under the Social Security Act. (T. 13-32.) On April 11, 2014, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (T. 1-6.) Thereafter, Plaintiff timely sought judicial review in this Court.
C. The ALJ's Decision
Generally, in her decision, the ALJ made the following six findings of fact and conclusions of law. (T. 19-29.) First, the ALJ found that T.S. was a "young infant" at the time of filing and an "older infant" at the time of the hearing pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(g)(2). (T. 19.) Second, the ALJ found that T.S. had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application date. ( Id. ) Third, the ALJ found that T.S. suffered from the severe impairments of arterial septal defect ("ASD"), lactose intolerance, reactive airway disease ("RAD"), and persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn ("PPHN") pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 416.924(c). ( Id. ) Fourth, the ALJ found that T.S. did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix I ("the Listings"). (T. 20.) Specifically, the ALJ reviewed Listings §§ 104.05, 104.06, 103.02, and 103.03. (T. 20-21.) Fifth, the ALJ found that T.S. did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that functionally equals an impairment set forth in the Listings. (T. 21-28.) Sixth, and finally, the ALJ concluded that T.S. has not been disabled, as defined by the Social Security Act, since July 19, 2011 the date her application was filed. (T. 29.)
II. THE PARTIES' BRIEFINGS
A. Plaintiff's Arguments
Generally, in support of her motion for judgment on the pleadings, Plaintiff makes five arguments. First, Plaintiff argues the ALJ failed to assist the Plaintiff in developing the record and failed to advise Plaintiff about her right to representation. (Dkt. No. 11 at 13-18 [Pl.'s Mem. of Law].) Second, Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in failing to consider Plaintiff's condition under Listing 110.00. ( Id. at 18-19) Third, Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in affording great weight to a non-examining State medical consultant. ( Id. at 19-20.) Fourth, Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in failing to find Plaintiff had an "extreme limitation" in the health and physical well-being domain. ( Id. at 20-21.) Fifth, and lastly, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in failing to find Plaintiff had a "marked limitation" in the moving and manipulating objects domain. ( Id. at 21.)
B. Defendant's Argument
Generally, in support of her cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings, Defendant makes two arguments. Defendant argues the ALJ properly advised Plaintiff of her right to representation. (Dkt. No. 16 at 5-6 [Def.'s Mem. of Law].) Second, and lastly, Defendant argues the ALJ properly considered the medical evidence. ( Id. at 6-12.)
III. RELEVANT LEGAL STANDARD
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 disability determination made according to the correct legal principles."); see Grey v. Heckler, 721 F.2d 41, 46 (2d Cir. 1983); Marcus v. Califano, 615 F.2d 23, 27 (2d Cir. 1979).
"Substantial evidence" is evidence that amounts to "more than a mere scintilla, " and it has been defined as "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 1427 (1971). Where evidence is deemed susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's conclusion must be upheld. See Rutherford v. Schweiker, 685 F.2d 60, 62 (2d Cir. 1982).
"To determine on appeal whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence, a reviewing court considers the whole record, examining evidence from both sides, because an analysis of the substantiality of the evidence must also include that which detracts from its weight." Williams v. Bowen, 859 F.2d 255, 258 (2d Cir. 1988).
If supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's finding must be sustained "even where substantial evidence may support the plaintiff's position and despite that the court's independent analysis of the evidence may differ from the [Commissioner's]." Rosado v. Sullivan, 805 F.Supp. 147, 153 (S.D.N.Y. 1992). 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 might justifiably ...