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Emond v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 23, 2017

JENNIFER EMOND, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          LACHMAN, GORTON LAW FIRM Attorneys for Plaintiff.

          OFFICE OF REGIONAL GENERAL COUNSEL SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION REGION II Attorneys for Defendant.

          OF COUNSEL: PETER A. GORTON, ESQ. KAREN T. CALLAHAN, ESQ. Special Ass't United States Attorney.

          MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

          DAVID N. HURD, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Jennifer Emond ("Emond" or "plaintiff") brings this action, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking review of defendant Commissioner of Social Security's ("Commissioner" or "defendant") final decision denying her applications for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") and Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). The parties have filed their briefs as well as the Administrative Record on Appeal and the motions will be considered on the basis of these submissions without oral argument.[1]

         II. BACKGROUND

         Emond initially filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income alleging that her various physical and mental conditions rendered her disabled beginning on February 8, 2008.

         Her claims were initially denied on December 21, 2012. At Emond's request, a video hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Robert Gale on May 13, 2014. Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified.

         On August 26, 2014, the ALJ issued a written decision denying Emond's application for benefits, which became the final decision of the defendant Commissioner of Social Security when the Appeals Council denied her request for review.

         III. DISCUSSION

         A. Standard of Review

         A court's review of the Commissioner's final decision is limited to determining whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence and the correct legal standards were applied. Poupore v. Astrue, 566 F.3d 303, 305 (2d Cir. 2009) (per curiam). "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.'" Id. (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)).

         "To determine on appeal whether an ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence, a reviewing court considers the whole record, examining the evidence from both sides, because an analysis of the substantiality of the evidence must also include that which detracts from its weight." Williams v. Bowen, 859 F.2d 255, 258 (2d Cir. 1988) (citing Universal Camera Corp. v. NLRB, 340 U.S. 474, 488 (1951)). If the Commissioner's disability determination is supported by substantial evidence, that determination is conclusive. See id. Indeed, where evidence is deemed susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner's decision must be upheld-even if the court's independent review of the evidence may differ from the Commissioner's. Rutherford v. Schweiker, 685 F.2d 60, 62 (2d Cir. 1982); Rosado v. Sullivan, 805 F.Supp. 147, 153 (S.D.N.Y. 1992).

         However, "where there is a reasonable basis for doubting whether the Commissioner applied the appropriate legal standards, " the decision should not be affirmed even though the ultimate conclusion reached is arguably supported by substantial evidence. Martone v. Apfel, 70 F.Supp.2d 145, 148 (N.D.N.Y. 1999) (citing Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d 983, 986 (2d Cir. 1987)).

         B. Disability Determination-The Five-Step Evaluation Process

         The Act defines "disability" as the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. ...


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