United States District Court, W.D. New York
VERNA D. RODOLPH, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
MICHAEL A. TELESCA United States District Judge
by counsel, Verna D. Rodolph (“plaintiff”) brings
this action pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act
(“the Act”), seeking review of the final decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security (“the
Commissioner”) denying her application for disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”). The Court has
jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). Presently before the Court are the parties'
cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule
12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the
reasons discussed below, the Commissioner's motion is
record reveals that in June 2012, plaintiff (d/o/b April 28,
1959) applied for DIB, alleging disability as of December 21,
2010. After her application was denied, plaintiff requested a
hearing, which was held before administrative law judge
Robert T. Harvey (“the ALJ”) on January 9, 2014.
The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on April 3, 2014. The
Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision and
this timely action followed.
The ALJ's Decision
one of the five-step sequential evaluation process, see 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520, the ALJ determined that plaintiff had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December
21, 2010, the alleged onset date. At step two, the ALJ found
that plaintiff suffered from the following severe
impairments: bilateral shoulder arthroscopy, right knee
degenerative joint disease, and “osteoarthritis of the
right hand index finger.” T. 13. At step three, the ALJ
found that plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled a
proceeding to step four, the ALJ determined that, considering
all of plaintiff's impairments, plaintiff retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b)
“except lifting and carrying with the right upper
extremity should not exceed five pounds”; plaintiff had
“occasional limitations in bending and crawling as well
as occasional limitations in the ability to reach in all
directions with the right upper extremity, occasional
limitations in handling with the right upper extremity, and
occasional limitations in pushing and pulling with the right
upper extremity”; and plaintiff could not work
“in areas where she would be exposed to cold and
dampness.” T. 16.
four, the ALJ found that plaintiff was unable to perform any
past relevant work. At step five, the ALJ determined that
considering plaintiff's age, education, work experience,
and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in the national
economy which plaintiff could perform. Accordingly, the ALJ
found that plaintiff was not disabled.
district court may set aside the Commissioner's
determination that a claimant is not disabled only if the
factual findings are not supported by “substantial
evidence” or if the decision is based on legal error.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also Green-Younger v.
Barnhart, 335 F.3d 99, 105-06 (2d Cir. 2003).
“Substantial evidence means ‘such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.'” Shaw v. Chater,
221 F.3d 126, 131 (2d Cir. 2000).
contends that the RFC was unsupported by substantial
evidence. Specifically, plaintiff argues that her reports of
pain as well as the objective medical findings indicate
limitations greater than that found by ALJ. Plaintiff also
takes issue with the ALJ's failure to make a specific
function-by-function assessment of plaintiff's
limitations, and argues that the RFC failed to account for
her mental limitations.
February 1, 2013 functional assessment apparently completed
for workers compensation purposes, Dr. Karen Sarpolis opined
that plaintiff was frequently limited in climbing and
balancing; occasionally limited in kneeling, crouching,
crawling, and stooping; and limited in reaching overhead with
the left arm.
Sarpolis concluded that “[t]he totality of the medical
evidence support[ed] the establishment of a light RFC with
restrictions regarding [plaintiff's] ability to reach
overhead on the left side due to the left shoulder
impairment.” T. 501. Plaintiff argues that the failure
to include specific left arm limitations in the RFC
constituted reversible error; however, as the ALJ noted,
plaintiff's left shoulder condition improved appreciably
following surgery in March 2011. Plaintiff also testified
that she experienced pain and limitations in her right upper
extremity, not her left. Moreover, the ALJ's attribution
of only “some” weight to Dr. Sarpolis's
opinion, due to the fact that she “did not have the