United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
FRANK P. GERACI, JR., United States District Court Chief
Marie Boltz (“Boltz” 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
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). 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.
10, 12. For the reasons that follow, the Plaintiff’s
motion is DENIED and Commissioner’s motion is GRANTED.
17, 2012, Boltz protectively filed an application for DIB
with the Social Security Administration (“the
SSA”). Tr. 144-50. She alleged that she had been
disabled since October 24, 2011, due to fibromyalgia,
ulcerative colitis, restless leg syndrome, and cardiac
impairment. Tr. 163. After her application was denied at the
initial administrative level, a hearing was held before
Administrative Law Judge Donald T. McDougall (“the
ALJ”) on December 6, 2013, in which the ALJ considered
Boltz’s application de novo. Tr. 21-32, 100.
Boltz appeared at the hearing with her attorney and
testified. Tr. 41-70. Josiah L. Pearson, an impartial
Vocational Expert (“VE”), also testified. Tr.
70-78. On February 14, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision
finding that Boltz was not disabled within the meaning of the
Act. Tr. 21-32. That decision became the Commissioner’s
final decision when the Appeals Council denied Botlz’s
request for review on May 7, 2015. Tr. 1-4. Thereafter, Boltz
commenced this action seeking review of the
Commissioner’s final decision. 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). 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). “If
evidence is susceptible to more than one rational
interpretation, the Commissioner’s conclusion must be
upheld.” McIntyre v. Colvin, 758 F.3d 146, 149
(2d Cir. 2014); see also Veino v. Barnhart, 312 F.3d
578, 588 (2d Cir. 2002) (“Genuine conflicts in the
medical evidence are for the Commissioner to
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). The ALJ 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.
§ 404.1520(f). If the 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 work experience. See Rosa v.
Callahan, 168 F.3d 72, 77 (2d Cir. 1999) (quotation
marks omitted); see also 20 C.F.R. §
The ALJ’s Decision
ALJ’s decision analyzed Boltz’s claim for
benefits under the process described above. Tr. 21-32. At
step one, the ALJ found that Boltz had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since October 24, 2011, the
alleged onset date. Tr. 23-24. At step two, the ALJ found
that Boltz had the following severe impairments: fibromyalgia
and obesity. Tr. 24-26. At step three, the ALJ found that the
record lacked sufficient evidence to establish that
Boltz’s obesity met the severity criteria required by a
listing. Tr. 26. The ALJ also found that “no treating,
examining, or non-examining medical source has documented
findings or rendered an opinion that the ...