United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
FRANK P. GERACI, JR. Chief Judge United States District Court
Angela Chapman (“Chapman”) brought this action
under Title XVI of the Social Security Act (“the
Act”). ECF No. 1. Chapman has asked this Court to
review the Commissioner of Social Security's (“the
Commissioner”) decision denying her application for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). This Court
has jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g),
parties have moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to
Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ECF Nos.
9, 11. For the reasons that follow, the Commissioner's
motion is DENIED and Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED.
September 13, 2012, Chapman protectively applied for SSI with
the Social Security Administration (“the SSA”).
158-164, 173. In her application, Chapman alleged that she
became disabled on October 1, 2010. Tr. 158, 199. She alleged
that her disability resulted from fibromyalgia, thrombotic
thrombocytopenic purpura, and depression. Tr. 199. At the
initial administrative level, the SSA denied Chapman's
application. Tr. 84-92. Following that decision,
Administrative Law Judge John P. Ramos (“the
ALJ”) considered Chapman's application de
novo. Tr. 37-51. On April 2, 2014, the ALJ held a
hearing (Tr. 56-83), and on June 20, 2014, he found that
Chapman was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr.
40-51. That finding became the Commissioner's final
decision when the Appeals Council denied Chapman's
request for review. Tr. 1-4. On September 2, 2015, Chapman
initiated this action. ECF No. 1.
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). A decision by the Commissioner is
“conclusive” under the Act 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).
must follow a five-step sequential evaluation to determine
whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Act.
See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. First, the ALJ must
determine whether the claimant is engaged in substantial
gainful work activity. See 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(i). If so, the claimant is not disabled.
Id. If not, the ALJ proceeds to the second step 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. §
416.920(a)(4)(ii). If the claimant does not have a severe
impairment or combination of impairments, the analysis
concludes with a finding of “not disabled.”
Id. If the claimant does, the ALJ continues to the
three, the ALJ examines whether a claimant's impairment
meets or medically equals the criteria of a listed impairment
in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 of the
regulations (“the Listings”). If the impairment
meets or medically equals the criteria of a Listing and meets
the durational requirement (20 C.F.R. § 416.909), 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. § 416.945(a)(1). The ALJ then
proceeds to the fourth step 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.
§ 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant can perform such
requirements, then he or she is not disabled. Id.
claimant cannot perform the requirements of his or her past
work, the ALJ proceeds to the fifth and final step. There the
burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant
is not disabled. Bush v. Shalala, 94 F.3d 40, 44-45
(2d Cir. 1996). To do so, the Commissioner must present
evidence to demonstrate that the claimant “retains a
residual functional capacity to perform alternative
substantial gainful work” in light of his or her age,
education, and work experience. See Rosa v.
Callahan, 168 F.3d 72, 77 (2d Cir. 1999) (internal
quotation marks omitted); see also 20 C.F.R. §
416.960(c)(1). To find that the claimant is not disabled, the
ALJ must be satisfied that a significant number of jobs which
the claimant can perform exist in the national economy. 20
C.F.R. § 416.960(c)(2).
The ALJ's Decision
ALJ's decision analyzed Chapman's application for
benefits under the process described above. Tr. 40-51. At
step one, the ALJ found that Chapman had not engaged in
substantially gainful activity since September 13, 2012. Tr.
42. At step two, the ALJ found that Chapman suffers from four
severe impairments: fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease
of the lumbar spine, depressive disorder, and anxiety
disorder. Tr. 42-44.
three, the ALJ found that none of Chapman's impairments,
alone or combined, meet or medically equal any impairment in
the Listings. Tr. 44-46. For that reason, the ALJ proceeded
to determine Chapman's RFC. Tr. 46. In doing so, the ALJ
considered Chapman's testimony about her impairments, the
objective medical evidence, and the opinions of five doctors.
Tr. 46-49. Before crediting the doctors' opinions, the
ALJ assessed what weight to give them. Tr. 48-49. He gave the
opinions of Justine Magurno, M.D., a consulting physician,
and Sara Long, Ph.D., a consulting psychologist, who each
examined Chapman once, “significant weight.” Tr.
48. Likewise, he gave the opinions of V. Reddy, Ph.D., a
state agency psychologist who examined Chapman's medical
records, “significant weight.” Tr. 48.
Conversely, he gave the opinions of Nadanaguru Akila, M.D.,