United States District Court, W.D. New York
DIANE F. AMES, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
FRANK P. GERACI, JR. " Chief Judge United States
F. Ames (“Ames” 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”) 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
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). ECF Nos. 6, 7. For the
reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED, the
Commissioner's motion is DENIED, and this matter is
REMANDED to the Commissioner for further administrative
December 17, 2012, Ames applied for DIB with the Social
Security Administration (“the SSA”).
56, 153. She alleged that she had been disabled since January
1, 2010 due to a spinal impairment, carpel tunnel syndrome,
small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (“SIBO”),
depression, anxiety, and obsessive compulsive disorder
(“OCD”). Tr. 153, 157. On August 21, 2014, a
hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Timothy M.
McGuan (“the ALJ”), in which Ames and a
vocational expert (“VE”) appeared and testified.
Tr. 25-55. On January 8, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision
finding that Ames was not disabled within the meaning of the
Act. Tr. 11-20. That decision became the Commissioner's
final decision when the Appeals Council denied Ames's
request for review on March 21, 2016. Tr. 1-4. Thereafter,
Ames 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 Parker 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).
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. §