United States District Court, W.D. New York
MARGARET A. PARKS, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
FRANK P GERACI, JR Chief Judge
A. Parks (“Parks” or “Plaintiff”)
brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act
(“the Act”) seeking review of the final decision
of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“the
Commissioner”) that denied her application for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Act. ECF No. 1. This Court has jurisdiction over
this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).
parties have moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to
Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ECF Nos.
12, 15. For the reasons that follow, this Court finds that
the Commissioner's decision is not in accordance with the
applicable legal standards. Accordingly, Plaintiff's
motion is GRANTED, the Commissioner's motion is DENIED,
and this matter is REMANDED to the Commissioner for further
April 6, 2011, Parks protectively applied for SSI with the
Social Security Administration (“the SSA”).
207-12. She alleged that she had been disabled since December
31, 2009, due to back injuries and post-traumatic stress
disorder. Tr. 286. After her application was denied at the
initial administrative level, a hearing was held before
Administrative Law Judge Brian Kane (“the ALJ”)
on May 31, 2012, in which the ALJ considered Parks's
application de novo. Tr. 67-118. Parks appeared at
the hearing with her attorney and testified. Id.
Julie A. Andrews, a vocational expert (“VE”),
also appeared at the hearing and testified. Tr. 103-16. On
September 18, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding that
Parks was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr.
130-38. On August 1, 2013, the Appeals Council vacated the
hearing decision and remanded the case to the ALJ with
specific instructions. Tr. 144-46.
December 6, 2013, Parks appeared with her attorney and
testified at a second hearing before the ALJ. Tr. 36-66. VE
Andrews also appeared and testified. Tr. 55-66. On February
6, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Parks was not
disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr. 9-23. On June 23,
2015, that decision became the Commissioner's final
decision when the Appeals Council denied Parks's request
for review. Tr. 1-5. Thereafter, Parks filed this action
seeking review of the Commissioner's final decision. ECF
District Court Review
reviewing a final decision of the SSA, this Court is limited
to determining whether the SSA's conclusions were
supported by substantial evidence in the record and were
based on a correct legal standard.” Talavera v.
Astrue, 697 F.3d 145, 151 (2d Cir. 2012) (internal
quotation marks omitted); see also 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). The Act holds that a decision by the Commissioner is
“conclusive” if it is supported by substantial
evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “Substantial
evidence means more than a mere scintilla. It means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Moran v.
Astrue, 569 F.3d 108, 112 (2d Cir. 2009) (internal
quotation marks omitted). It is not this Court's function
to “determine de novo whether [the claimant]
is disabled.” Schaal v. Apfel, 134 F.3d 496,
501 (2d Cir. 1998) (internal quotation marks omitted);
see also Wagner v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 906 F.2d 856, 860 (2d Cir. 1990) (holding that
review of the Secretary's decision is not de
novo and that the Secretary's findings are
conclusive if supported by substantial evidence).
must follow a five-step sequential evaluation to determine
whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Act.
See Bowen v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 470-71
(1986). At step one, the ALJ must determine whether the
claimant is engaged in substantial gainful work activity.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). If so, the
claimant is not disabled. If not, the ALJ proceeds to step
two and determines whether the claimant has an impairment, or
combination of impairments, that is “severe”
within the meaning of the Act, meaning that it imposes
significant restrictions on the claimant's ability to
perform basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c).
If the claimant does not have a severe impairment or
combination of impairments, the analysis concludes with a
finding of “not disabled.” If the claimant does,
the ALJ continues to step three.
three, the ALJ examines whether a claimant's impairment
meets or medically equals the criteria of a listed impairment
in Appendix 1 of Subpart P of Regulation No. 4 (the
“Listings”). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). If the
impairment meets or medically equals the criteria of a
Listing and meets the durational requirement (20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1509), the claimant is disabled. If not, the ALJ
determines the claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”), which is the ability to perform physical
or mental work activities on a sustained basis,
notwithstanding limitations for the collective impairments.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e)-(f).
then proceeds to step four and determines whether the
claimant's RFC permits him or her to perform the
requirements of his or her past relevant work. 20 C.F.R.
claimant can perform such requirements, then he or she is not
disabled. If he or she cannot, the analysis proceeds to the
fifth and final step, wherein the burden shifts to the
Commissioner to show that the claimant is not disabled. To do
so, the Commissioner must present evidence to demonstrate
that the claimant “retains a residual functional
capacity to perform alternative substantial gainful work
which exists in the national economy” in light of his
or her age, education, and ...