United States District Court, W.D. New York
SHANTELL Y. DANIELS, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
MICHAEL A. TELESCA United States District Judge
by counsel, Shantell Y. Daniels (“plaintiff”)
brings this action pursuant to Titles II and XVI of the
Social Security Act (“the Act”), seeking review
of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“the Commissioner”) denying her applications for
disability insurance benfits (“DIB”) and
supplemental security income (“SSI”). The Court
has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Presently before the Court are the
parties' cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings
pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. For the reasons discussed below, the
Commissioner's motion is granted.
record reveals that in April 2011, plaintiff (d/o/b March 8,
1969) applied for DIB and SSI, alleging disability as of
April 11, 2007. After her applications were denied, plaintiff
requested a hearing, which was held before administrative law
judge David Lewandowski (“the ALJ”) on November
7, 2012. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on May 20,
2013. The Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's
decision and this timely action followed.
The ALJ's Decision
the ALJ found that plaintiff met the insured status
requirements of the Act through June 30, 2011. At step one of
the five-step sequential evaluation process, see 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920, the ALJ determined that
plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since April 11, 2007, the alleged onset date. At step two,
the ALJ found that plaintiff suffered from the following
severe impairments: obesity, asthma, knee pain status post
arthroscopy, shoulder tendinopathy and bursitis, and low back
and neck pain. At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff
did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
met or medically equaled a listed impairment.
proceeding to step four, the ALJ determined that, considering
all of plaintiff's impairments, plaintiff retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b),
416.967(b), with the following limitations: she could
occasionally climb stairs, balance, and stoop; she could
never kneel, crouch, or crawl; she must avoid environmental
irritants; she could occasionally push and pull; she could
perform no overhead activities; she must avoid extreme
temperatures; and she must have a sit/stand option that could
be exercised every 15 minutes. At step four, the ALJ found
that plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work.
At step five, the ALJ determined that considering
plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC,
jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy
which plaintiff could perform. Accordingly, the ALJ found
that plaintiff was not disabled.
district court may set aside the Commissioner's
determination that a claimant is not disabled only if the
factual findings are not supported by “substantial
evidence” or if the decision is based on legal error.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also Green-Younger v.
Barnhart, 335 F.3d 99, 105-06 (2d Cir. 2003).
“Substantial evidence means ‘such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.'” Shaw v. Chater,
221 F.3d 126, 131 (2d Cir. 2000).
contends, at points I and III of her brief, that the ALJ
improperly assessed her credibility. Specifically, plaintiff
argues that the ALJ mischaracterized certain portions her
testimony and the medical record when reaching his
credibility determination, and failed to properly evaluate
her subjective complaints of pain. For the reasons that
follow, the Court concludes that the ALJ properly evaluated
finding plaintiff less than fully credible, the ALJ
considered her testimony and the extent to which it was
consistent with the medical record as a whole. The ALJ
correctly noted that plaintiff testified that she could sit
for only up to 15 minutes at a time, but also testified that
she can drive a car for up to 30 minutes. Additionally, the
ALJ noted that objective imaging and physical examinations of
plaintiff revealed relatively unremarkable findings
inconsistent with her subjective complaints. For example,
MRIs of the lumbar spine, left knee, and left shoulder were
unremarkable, showing no significant abnormalities. State
agency consulting physician Dr. Hongbiao Liu noted on
physical examination that plaintiff demonstrated full ranges
of motion (“ROM”) and opined that she was limited
merely in regard to exposure to environmental irritants due
to her asthma. The ALJ also noted inconsistencies between
plaintiff's reports and her treatment records, such as a
note from an examination in March 2011 that
“[plaintiff] did not cough at all during the entire
triage process[, but] [i]mmediately upon placing stethoscope
on [her] chest [she] coughed incessantly.” T. 265.
the reasons given by the ALJ for discounting plaintiff's
credibility are borne out by the record. Moreover, the Court
concludes that the ALJ's evaluation of plaintiff's
credibility was performed according to the relevant legal
standard. See Britt v. Astrue, 486 F. App'x 161,
164 (2d Cir. 2012) (finding explicit mention of 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1529 and SSR 96-7p as evidence that the ALJ used
the proper legal standard in assessing the claimant's
credibility); Judelsohn v. Astrue, 2012 WL 2401587,
*6 (W.D.N.Y. June 25, 2012) (“Failure to expressly
consider every factor set forth in the regulations is not