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Thompson v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. New York

July 29, 2015

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.


MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.


Renee Elizabeth Thompson, ("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 her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). 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. ##12, 13.


Plaintiff protectively filed an application for SSI on August 10, 2009, alleging disability beginning July 28, 2009 due to hiparthritis, bulging and slipped discs, depression, anxiety, and bursitis.[1] T.139-46, 172, 187-88. Her initial application was denied, and a hearing followed before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") William M. Weir in Buffalo, New York on July 26, 2011. T. 53-77, 79-84, 86. Plaintiff, who appeared with counsel, testified at the hearing.

In applying the required five-step sequential analysis, as contained in the administrative regulations promulgated by the Social Security Administration ("SSA"), 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 did not engage in substantial gainful activity since August 10, 2009; (2) she had the severe impairments of hip pain, trochanteric bursitis, and degenerative disc disease; (3) her impairments did not meet or equal the Listings set forth at 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpt. P, Appx. 1, and that she retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform the full range of sedentary work; (4) Plaintiff could not perform her past relevant work; and (5) there was other work that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. T. 26-33.

The ALJ's determination that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act was issued on December 21, 2011, and became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied does not address any purported impairment that is not related to her physical conditions. Pl. Mem. 1-14. Accordingly, only her physical impairments are at issue in this Decision and Order. Plaintiff's request for review on February 4, 2013. T. 1-7, 21-33. This action followed. Dkt.#1.

The Commissioner now moves for judgment on the pleadings asserting that the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence. Comm'r Mem. (Dkt.#12-1) 16-23. Plaintiff has filed a cross-motion alleging that the ALJ failed to follow the treating physician rule and improperly evaluated Plaintiff's credibility. Pl. Mem. (Dkt. #14) 5-14.


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." Green-Younger v. Barnhart, 335 F.3d 99, 106 (2d Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted).

II. Relevant Medical Evidence

A. Treating Sources

On July 17, 2009, Dr. Scott Darling evaluated Plaintiff upon complaints of left hip pain. T. 278. Plaintiff exhibited slightly antalgic gait on the left and full range of motion in the hip with some tenderness. Id . Negative straight leg raise was noted, and there was tenderness of the left greater trochanter. Id . X-rays from July 10, 2009 were remarkable for mild joint space narrowing, and revealed no dislocation, fracture, or significant arthritic changes. T. 278, 281. Plaintiff was given an "off work" note for one week, and was prescribed steroids, an injection, and physical therapy. T. 279.

The following month, Plaintiff returned to Dr. Darling for ongoing left hip pain, new right posterior hip pain, and midline lower back pain with radicular symptoms. T. 286. She reported that the corticosteroid injection only helped for three days, and that she was taking ibuprofen as needed. Id . Upon examination Plaintiff walked with normal gait, had point tenderness at the right sacroiliac joint, full range of motion in hips with pain at internal and external rotation of the right hip, and full range of motion in the spine. Straight leg raising test was positive. Id . No tenderness was noted in the greater trochanter on the right. T. 287. Dr. Darling ordered magnetic ...

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