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Bishop v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. New York

April 10, 2017



          HON. RICHARD S. HARTUNIAN HEETANO SHAMSOONDAR, ESQ. Special Assistant United States Attorney United States Attorney for the Northern District of New York Counsel for Defendant

          OFFICE OF THE GENERAL COUNSEL Social Security Administration


          THÉRÈSE WILEY DANCKS, United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Deborah Bishop brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying her application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). (Dkt. No. 1.) This case has proceeded in accordance with General Order 18 of this Court which sets forth the procedures to be followed when appealing a denial of Social Security benefits. Both parties have filed briefs. (Dkt. Nos. 11 and 12.) Oral argument was not heard. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties have consented to the disposition of this case by a United States Magistrate Judge. (Dkt. Nos. 7 and 8.) For the reasons discussed below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed.


         Plaintiff was born on April 3, 1972. (Administrative Transcript at 151.[1]) She is a college graduate with an associate degree in human services from Highlands Community College. (T. at 36, 60.) She reported past work as a cashier, housekeeper, and shipping clerk. (T. at 199.) Plaintiff has not worked since May 18, 2012. (T. at 168.) Plaintiff alleges disability due to depression, anxiety, alcohol abuse, pseudo dementia, and vitamin B and D deficiencies. (T. at 167.)

         Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on April 1, 2013. (T. at 151.) The application was denied on August 2, 2013. (T. at 77-86.) On August 26, 2016, non-attorney representative Janice Cammarato was appointed to assist Plaintiff. (T. at 87.) Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) and a hearing was held on September 12, 2014, before ALJ Carl E. Stephan. (T. at 55.) The ALJ sent a medical interrogatory to Daryl DiDio, Ph.D., on September 15, 2014. (T. at 385.) Dr. DiDio returned his response to the interrogatory on September 21, 2014. (T. at 396.) Plaintiff's representative posed a question to Dr. DiDio about his response, and Dr. DiDio responded to the question on October 11, 2014. (T. at 404.)

         On February 10, 2015, a second hearing was held to receive testimony from vocational expert Connie Louise Standhart. (T. at 33.)

         On March 5, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. (T. at 14.) The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on December 16, 2015. (T. at 5.) Plaintiff timely commenced this action on February 4, 2016. (Dkt. No. 1.)


         A. Standard for Benefits[2]

         To be considered disabled, a plaintiff seeking disability insurance benefits or SSI disability benefits must establish that he or she is “unable 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 twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A) (2006). In addition, the plaintiff's physical or mental impairment or impairments [must be] of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work.

Id. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).

         Acting pursuant to its statutory rulemaking authority (42 U.S.C. § 405(a)), the Social Security Administration (“SSA”) promulgated regulations establishing a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine disability. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4) (2016). Under that five-step sequential evaluation process, the decision-maker determines:

(1) whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant has a severe impairment or combination of impairments; (3) whether the impairment meets or equals the severity of the specified impairments in the Listing of Impairments; (4) based on a “residual functional capacity” assessment, whether the claimant can perform any of his or her past relevant work despite the impairment; and (5) whether there are significant numbers of jobs in the national ...

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