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Janes v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 10, 2017

DENNIS H. JANES, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          OFFICE OF PETER W. ANTONOWICZ Counsel for Plaintiff

          U.S. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN. OFFICE OF REG'L GEN. COUNSEL - REGION II Counsel for Defendant

          OF COUNSEL: PETER W. ANTONOWICZ, ESQ. PRASHANT TAMASKAR, ESQ.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          Hon. Glenn T. Suddaby Chief U.S. District Judge

         Currently before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by Dennis H. Janes, (“Plaintiff”) against the Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or “the Commissioner”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), are the parties' cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. Nos. 10, 13.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings is denied and Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted.

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff has a high school education, and has past work as an assembly inspector and a vending machine collector. Generally, Plaintiff's alleged disability consists of degenerative disc disease, mood disorder secondary to degenerative disc disease, irritable bowel syndrome, depression, and Crohn's disease.

         B. Procedural History

         On June 2, 2014, Plaintiff applied for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits, alleging disability beginning April 28, 2014. (T. 14.)[1] Plaintiff's application was initially denied on August 25, 2014, after which he timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Id.) On February 5, 2015, Plaintiff appeared in a video hearing before the ALJ, Gregory M. Hamel. (Id.) On May 8, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act. (T. 8-26.) On October 22, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (T. 1-6.) Thereafter, Plaintiff timely sought judicial review in this Court.

         C. The ALJ's Decision

         Generally, in his decision, the ALJ made the following six findings of fact and conclusions of law. (T. 16-25.) First, the ALJ found that Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2018, and has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 28, 2014, the alleged onset date. (T. 16.) Second, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine with obesity, Crohn's disease, bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome status post-repair, and depressive disorder. (T. 16-17.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff's hypertension and insomnia are not severe impairments under the regulations. (T. 17.) Third, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's severe impairments, alone or in combination, do not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App. 1 (the “Listings”). (T. 17-19.) The ALJ considered Listings 1.04, 5.06, 12.04, and 12.09. (Id.)

         Fourth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform

light work, as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b)[2] except he can only occasionally climb stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; can use the upper extremities for frequent but not constant handling and fingering; can do routine and repetitive tasks only; and cannot do tasks requiring more than occasional public contact or more than occasional interactions with coworkers.

(T. 19-23.) Fifth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. (T.24.) Sixth, and finally, the ALJ found that there are other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform. (Id.)

         D. The Parties' Briefings on Their Cross-Motions

         Generally, Plaintiff asserts three arguments in support of his motion for judgment on the pleadings. First, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to develop the record by not obtaining Plaintiff's medical records from the Veterans Administration for the ten months prior to the ALJ's decision. (Dkt. No. 10, at 9-10 [Pl.'s Mem. of Law].) Second, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ improperly assessed Plaintiff's credibility. (Id. at 10-12.) Third, and finally, Plaintiff argues that the Commissioner violated the regulations by obtaining consultative examinations from non-treating sources without first attempting to obtain consultative examinations from Plaintiff's treating sources. (Id. at 12-14.)

         Generally, Defendant makes three arguments in support of her motion for judgment on the pleadings. First, Defendant argues that the ALJ fulfilled his duty to develop the record. (Dkt. No. 13, at 7-9 [Def.'s Mem. of Law].) Second, Defendant argues that the ALJ's credibility finding was supported by substantial evidence. (Id. at 10-13.) Third, and finally, Defendant argues that the Commissioner's selection of physicians to perform the consultative medical examinations was not legal error. (Id. at 13-15.)

         II. RELEVANT ...


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