United States District Court, N.D. New York
SYLVIA A. HACKETT, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
R. DOLSON, ESQ., for Plaintiff
ABRAHAM, Special Asst. U.S. Attorney, for Defendant
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
T. BAXTER, U.S. Magistrate Judge
matter was referred to me, for all proceedings and entry of a
final judgment, pursuant to the Social Security Pilot
Program, N.D.N.Y. General Order No. 18, in accordance with
the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Fed.R.Civ.P. 73,
N.D.N.Y. Local Rule 73.1 and the consent of the parties.
(Dkt. Nos. 4, 6).
September 21, 2012, plaintiff filed applications for Social
Security Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”)
and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”)
benefits, both alleging disability beginning June 1, 2012.
(Administrative Transcript (“T.”) 154-67). The
applications were denied initially on February 6, 2013. (T.
55-86). Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
Elizabeth W. Koennecke held a hearing on May 7, 2014, at
which plaintiff testified. (T. 40-54). Vocational Expert
(“VE”) Robert Baker testified at a a supplemental
hearing before the ALJ on November 3, 2014. (T. 33-39). On
November 5, 2014, the ALJ found plaintiff was not disabled.
(T. 15-32). The ALJ's decision became the
Commissioner's final decision when the Appeals Council
denied plaintiff's request for review on May 26, 2016.
GENERALLY APPLICABLE LAW
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). In addition, the
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.
42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).
Commissioner uses a five-step process, set forth in 20 C.F.R.
sections 404.1520 and 416.920 to evaluate disability
insurance and SSI disability claims.
First, the Commissioner considers whether the claimant is
currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. If he is
not, the Commissioner next considers whether the claimant has
a “severe impairment” which significantly limits
his physical or mental ability to do basic work activities.
If the claimant suffers such an impairment, the third inquiry
is whether, based solely on medical evidence, the claimant
has an impairment which meets or equals the criteria of an
impairment listed in Appendix 1 of the regulations. If the
claimant has such an impairment, the Commissioner will
consider him [per se] disabled . . . . Assuming the claimant
does not have a listed impairment, the fourth inquiry is
whether, despite the claimant's severe impairment, he has
the residual functional capacity to perform his past work.
Finally, if the claimant is unable to perform his past work,
the Commissioner then determines whether there is other work
which the claimant could perform.
Selian v. Astrue, 708 F.3d 409, 417-18 (2d Cir.
2013); see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.
The plaintiff has the burden of establishing disability at
the first four steps. However, if the plaintiff establishes
that her impairment prevents her from performing her past
work, there is a “limited burden shift to the
Commissioner” to “show that there is work in the
national economy that the claimant can do.” Poupore
v. Astrue, 566 F.3d 303, 306 (2d Cir. 2009);
Selian, 708 F.3d at 418 & n.2.
Scope of Review
reviewing a final decision of the Commissioner, a court must
determine whether the correct legal standards were applied
and whether substantial evidence supported the decision.
Selian v. Astrue, 708 F.3d at 417; Brault v.
Soc. Sec. Admin, Comm'r, 683 F.3d 443, 448 (2d Cir.
2012); 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)). Substantial evidence is
“‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'”
Talavera v. Astrue, 697 F.3d 145, 151 (2d Cir.
2012). It must be “more than a scintilla” of
evidence scattered throughout the administrative record.
Id. However, this standard is a very deferential
standard of review “ - even more so than the
‘clearly erroneous standard.'”
Brault, 683 F.3d at 448.
determine on appeal whether an ALJ's findings are
supported by substantial evidence, a reviewing court
considers the whole record, examining the evidence from both
sides, because an analysis of the substantiality of the
evidence must also include that which detracts from its
weight.” Williams on behalf of Williams v.
Bowen, 859 F.2d 255, 258 (2d Cir. 1988). However, a
reviewing court may not substitute its interpretation of the
administrative record for that of the Commissioner, if ...