United States District Court, N.D. New York
M. MARGOLIUS, ESQ., for Plaintiff
ABRAHAM, Special Asst. U.S. Attorney for Defendant
MEMORANDUM DECISION and ORDER
T. BAXTER, U.S. Magistrate Judge
matter was referred to me, for all proceedings and entry of a
final judgment, pursuant to the Social Security Pilot
Program, N.D.N.Y. General Order No. 18, in accordance with
the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Fed.R.Civ.P. 73,
N.D.N.Y. Local Rule 73.1 and the consent of the parties.
(Dkt. Nos. 4, 6).
protectively filed applications for Disability Insurance
benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Social Security
Income (“SSI”) benefits on March 6, 2015,
alleging disability beginning January 1, 2015. (Administrative
Transcript (“T”) at 24, 144-53). The applications
were denied initially on June 10, 2015. (T. 89-95).
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Robert Wright
held a hearing on October 23, 2015, at which plaintiff
testified. (T. 41-50). The ALJ held a supplemental hearing on
August 4, 2015, at which plaintiff and Vocational Expert
(“VE”) Connie Standhart testified. (T. 51-66). On
November 4, 2015, the ALJ found plaintiff was not disabled.
(T. 18-40). The ALJ's decision became the
Commissioner's final decision when the Appeals Council
denied plaintiff's request for review on March 23, 2016.
GENERALLY APPLICABLE LAW
considered disabled, a plaintiff seeking disability insurance
benefits or SSI disability benefits must establish that she
is “unable to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than twelve months . . . .” 42
U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). In addition, the
physical or mental impairment or impairments [must be] of
such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous
work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy, regardless of
whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work.
42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).
Commissioner uses a five-step process, set forth in 20 C.F.R.
sections 404.1520 and 416.920, to evaluate disability
insurance and SSI disability claims.
First, the [Commissioner] considers whether the claimant is
currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. If he is
not, the [Commissioner] next considers whether the claimant
has a “severe impairment” which significantly
limits his physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities. If the claimant suffers such an impairment, the
third inquiry is whether, based solely on medical evidence,
the claimant has an impairment which meets or equals the
criteria of an impairment listed in Appendix 1 of the
regulations. If the claimant has such an impairment, the
[Commissioner] will consider him disabled without considering
vocational factors such as age, education, and work
experience . . . . Assuming the claimant does not have a
listed impairment, the fourth inquiry is whether, despite the
claimant's severe impairment, he has the residual
functional capacity to perform his past work. Finally, if the
claimant is unable to perform his past work, the
[Commissioner] then determines whether there is other work
which the claimant can perform.
Berry v. Schweiker, 675 F.2d 464, 467 (2d Cir.
1982); see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.
The plaintiff has the burden of establishing disability at
the first four steps. However, if the plaintiff establishes
that her impairment prevents her from performing her past
work, the burden then shifts to the Commissioner to prove the
final step. Id.
Scope of Review
reviewing a final decision of the Commissioner, a court must
determine whether the correct legal standards were applied
and whether substantial evidence supported the decision.
Selian v. Astrue, 708 F.3d at 417; Brault v.
Soc. Sec. Admin, Comm'r, 683 F.3d 443, 448 (2d Cir.
2012); 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)). Substantial evidence is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Talavera v. Astrue, 697 F.3d 145, 151 (2d Cir.
2012). It must be “more than a scintilla” of
evidence scattered throughout the administrative record.