United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
FRANK P. GERACI, JR. Chief Judge United States District Court
Everett (“Everett” or “Plaintiff”)
brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act
(“the Act”) seeking review of the final decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security (“the
Commissioner”) that denied her application for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Act. ECF No. 1. This Court has jurisdiction over
this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
parties have moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to
Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. ECF Nos.
13, 14. For the reasons stated below, this Court finds that
the Commissioner's decision is not in accordance with the
applicable legal standards. Accordingly, Plaintiff's
motion is GRANTED, the Commissioner's motion is DENIED,
and this matter is REMANDED to the Commissioner for further
9, 2012, Everett protectively applied for DIB with the Social
Security Administration (“the SSA”).
201-07. She alleged that she had been disabled since May 28,
2011 due to a back injury, chronic ulcers, kidney stones,
insomnia, Raynaud's syndrome, depression, anxiety, a
learning disability, and attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder. Tr. 256. After her application was denied at the
initial administrative level, a hearing was held before
Administrative Law Judge Michael A. Rodriguez (“the
ALJ”) on September 10, 2013 in which the ALJ presided
by videoconference and considered Everett's application
de novo. Tr. 70-109. Everett appeared with her
attorney and testified. Id. On December 11, 2013,
the ALJ issued a decision finding that Everett was not
disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr. 59-68. That
decision became the Commissioner's final decision when
the Appeals Council denied Everett's request for review
on March 24, 2015. Tr. 1-6. Thereafter, Everett 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).
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 Everett's claim for benefits
under the process described above. At step one, the ALJ found
that Everett had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since the alleged onset date. Tr. 61. At step two, the ALJ
found that Everett has the following severe impairments:
degenerative disc disease and joint disease of the lumbar
spine, irritable bowel syndrome, gastroenteritis, ulcers, and
Raynaud's syndrome. Tr. 61-63. At step three, the ALJ