Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Israel v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 21, 2017

ABRAHAM ISRAEL, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ABRAHAM ISRAEL Plaintiff, Pro Se

          U.S. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN. Counsel for Defendant

          AMANDA J. LOCKSHIN, ESQ., ELIZABETH D. ROTHSTEIN, ESQ.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          GLENN T. SUDDABY CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Currently before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by Abraham Israel (“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.18, 25, 27.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings is denied and Defendant's motion for remand for further administrative proceedings is granted.

         I.RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff completed at least four years of college, and has past work as a fast food worker, a home health aide, a mental health aide, and a driver. (T. 7, 12.)[1] Generally, Plaintiff's disability consists of low back injury (including an annular tear at ¶ 3-4, and a large central disc herniation at ¶ 4-5 encroaching on the thecal sac and causing moderate bony stenosis and radiculopathy in the right leg), injuries to the right knee and right foot, obesity, and depression. (T. 128, 443); (Dkt. No. 18, at 2, 1-3 [Pl.'s Mem. of Law].)

         B. Procedural History

         i. Plaintiff's Application of June 16, 2008

         On June 16, 2008, Plaintiff applied for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits, alleging disability beginning January 28, 2007 (“First Application”). (T. 22, 440.) Plaintiff's First Application was initially denied on September 8, 2008, and upon reconsideration on September 18, 2008. (Id.) Subsequently, Plaintiff timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Id.) On March 8, 2010, Plaintiff appeared in a hearing before ALJ Scott C. Firestone. (T. 35-70.) On April 9, 2010, ALJ Firestone issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act. (T. 18-33.) On March 3, 2011, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (T. 10-15.)

         Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a civil action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York. (T. 440, ) On October 19, 2011, the District Court remanded the case for further administrative proceedings. (Id.) On November 27, 2012, the Appeals Council vacated ALJ Firestone's decision of April 9, 2010, and remanded the matter for further administrative proceedings (Appeals Council's “First Remand Order”). (Id.)

         ii. Plaintiff's Application of May 10, 2011

         On May 10, 2011, while Plaintiff's First Application was pending in the United States District Court for the Northern District of New York, Plaintiff applied for a period of disability and Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income, alleging disability beginning on January 28, 2007 (“Second Application”). (Id.) Plaintiff's Second Application was initially denied on September 19, 2011, after which Plaintiff timely requested a hearing before an ALJ. (Id.) On July 30, 2012, Plaintiff appeared in a hearing before ALJ Elizabeth W. Koennecke. (T. 527-48.) On September 24, 2012, ALJ Koennecke issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act. (T. 508-26.) On July 1, 2013, the Appeals Council vacated ALJ Koennecke's decision of September 24, 2012, and remanded the case for further administrative proceedings (Appeals Council's “Second Remand Order”). (T. 574-80.)

         iii. Plaintiff's Consolidated Applications

         On June 26, 2013, pursuant to the First Remand Order, Plaintiff appeared in a hearing before ALJ Edward I. Pitts. (T. 31-76.) On July 1, 2013, the Second Remand Order directed the ALJ to review Plaintiff's First and Second Applications and render a decision for the entire period at issue. (T. 574-80.) Accordingly, ALJ Pitts consolidated Plaintiff's First and Second Applications. (T. 440-41.) On August 8, 2013, ALJ Pitts issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act from January 28, 2007 through August 8, 2013. (T. 436-461.) On February 25, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision of August 8, 2013, the final decision of the Commissioner. (T. 433-35.) 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. 443-56.) First, the ALJ found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through March 31, 2011, and has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 28, 2007, the alleged onset date. (T. 443.) Second, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine was a severe impairment, but that Plaintiff's mental impairments, right knee and right foot sprain, hypertension, and obesity were not severe impairments under the regulations. (T. 443-47.)

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

sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a)[2]except he needs to change positions from sitting to standing or vice versa once every hour. When the claimant is changing positions, however, this is a matter of more or less stretching, he can remain at the workstation and remain on task. He has occasional postural limitations and [can perform] only occasional pushing and pulling with the lower right extremity. He needs to avoid concentrated exposure to extremes of temperature, vibration, humidity, respiratory irritants, and workplace hazards. When he is walking on rough and uneven ground or going up and down stairs, he needs to use a handheld assistive device, such as a cane.

         (T. 447-54.) Fifth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. (T. 454.) Sixth, and finally, the ALJ determined that there are other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform. (T. 454-55.)

         D. The Parties' Briefings on Their Cross-Motions

          i. Plaintiff's Motion for Judgement on the Pleadings

         Generally, Plaintiff asserts six arguments in support of his motion for judgment on the pleadings. First, Plaintiff argues that his back injury is a severe impairment under the regulations. (Dkt. No. 18, at 1 [Pl.'s Mem. of Law].) Second, construed liberally, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in weighing the opinions of treating physicians Ifechukwude Ojugbeli, M.D., and Supriya Oberoi, M.D., which indicate that he is unable to perform the exertional requirements of sedentary work. (Id., at 2-3.) Third, construed liberally, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in evaluating Plaintiff's credibility. (Id., at 2.) Fourth, Plaintiff argues that he does not have the RFC to perform any of his past relevant work. (Id., at 3.) Fifth, and finally, Plaintiff argues that he does not have the RFC to perform other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy. (Id.)

         ii. Defendant's Motion for Remand for Further Administrative Proceedings

         Generally, Defendant asserts four arguments in support of her motion to remand for further administrative proceedings. First, Defendant argues that remand for further proceedings is appropriate because the ALJ's RFC finding is based on an incomplete analysis of the medical opinion evidence and, therefore, the Court will not be able to assess whether substantial evidence supports the ALJ's RFC finding and the Commissioner's overall disability determination. (Dkt.No. 25, at 4-7 [Def.'s Mem. of Law].) Second, Defendant argues that remand for an award of benefits is not warranted because the record evidence does not compel the conclusion that Plaintiff is disabled under the Social Security Act. (Id., at 7-9.) Third, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's allegation of bias by the ALJ points to no record evidence to support his argument. (Id., at 9.) Fourth, and finally, Defendant argues that while the additional evidence submitted by Plaintiff does not constitute new and material evidence, it would nonetheless be included in Plaintiff's file upon remand for further administrative proceedings.

         iii. Plaintiff's Response to ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.