United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
FRANK P. GERACI, JR. Chief Judge.
Douglas Young (“Plaintiff”) brings this action to
challenge the final decision of the Acting Commissioner of
Social Security (“the Commissioner”) denying his
application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act
(“the Act”). ECF No. 1. The Court has
jurisdiction over this matter 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.
9, 11. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's motion
(ECF No. 9) is DENIED and the Commissioner's motion (ECF
No. 11) is GRANTED.
September 19, 2011, Plaintiff protectively filed an
application for DIB under the Act. Tr. 15. Plaintiff alleges
disability since May 6, 2011 due to a back injury. Tr. 156.
On March 6, 2014, Administrative Law Judge Michael W. Delvin
(“the ALJ”) issued a decision finding that
Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. Tr. 15-26. That
decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review
on July 14, 2015. Tr. 1-5. Plaintiff then filed this civil
action. ECF No. 1.
defines “disability” as “the inability to
do 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. § 423(d). Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) regulations outline the
five-step process used to determine whether a claimant is
“disabled” under the Act. 20 C.F.R. §
the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is engaged in any
substantial gainful work activity. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(b). If so, the claimant is not disabled.
Id. If not, the ALJ proceeds to step two and
determines whether the claimant has a “severe”
impairment or combination of impairments. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(c). If the claimant does not have a severe
impairment or combination of impairments, the claimant is not
disabled. Id. If the claimant does have a severe
impairment, the analysis proceeds to step three.
three, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has an
impairment (or combination of impairments) that meets or
medically equals one of the conditions listed in 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 of the regulations
(“the Listings”). If the impairment does meet or
equal a condition in the Listings and the durational
requirement (20 C.F.R. § 404.1509) is satisfied, then
the claimant is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). If it
does not, the ALJ will make a finding regarding the
claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”), which is an assessment of what the
claimant can still do despite his or her limitations. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(1). The RFC is then used at steps
four and five. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e).
fourth inquiry is whether, given the claimant's RFC, the
claimant can still perform his or her past relevant work. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(f). If the claimant can perform his or
her past relevant work, the claimant is not disabled.
Id. If he or she cannot, the ALJ proceeds to step
fifth and final step, the ALJ must consider the
claimant's RFC as well as his or her age, education, and
work experience to determine whether the claimant can make an
adjustment to other work for which there are a significant
number of jobs in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(g). If the claimant can make an adjustment to other
work, then the claimant is not disabled. Id. If the
claimant cannot make that adjustment, then the claimant is
burden of proving the first four elements is on the claimant,
and the burden of proving the fifth element is on the
Commissioner. Bush v. Shalala, 94 F.3d 40, 44-45 (2d
Cir. 1996); Berry v. Schweiker, 675 F.2d 464, 467
(2d Cir. 1982).
District Court Review
Court review of the Commissioner's decision is not de
novo. See, e.g., Richardson v.
Barnhart, 443 F.Supp.2d 411, 416 (W.D.N.Y. 2006)
(quoting Melville v. Apfel, 198 F.3d 45, 52 (2d Cir.
1999)). The Commissioner's decision may only be set aside
if it is not supported by “substantial evidence”
or is the product of legal error. See, e.g.,
Burgess v. Astrue, 537 F.3d 117, 127 (2d Cir. 2008)
(quoting Shaw v. Chater, 221 F.3d 126, 131 (2d Cir.
2000)). Substantial evidence means “more than a mere
scintilla” and is “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept ...