United States District Court, E.D. New York
Brandenstein & Rada, P.C. Attorneys for the Plaintiff By:
Erin K. McCabe, Esq., Of Counsel.
Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York Attorneys
for the Commissioner By: Matthew Mallioux, Assistant U.S.
DECISION & ORDER
D. SPATT, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
September 14, 2015, the Plaintiff Kenny Wat commenced this
civil appeal pursuant to the Social Security Act (the
“Act”), 42 U.S.C. § 405 et seq.,
challenging a final determination by the Acting Commissioner
of Social Security Carolyn W. Colvin, that he is ineligible
to receive Social Security disability insurance benefits.
before the Court are the parties' cross-motions, pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Fed. R. Civ.
P.”) 12(c), for judgment on the pleadings. For the
reasons that follow, the Commissioner's motion is
granted; the Plaintiff's cross-motion is denied; and the
Commissioner's denial of benefits is affirmed in its
8, 2013, the Plaintiff, then 54 years old, applied for
disability insurance benefits, alleging that a combination of
physical and mental impairments, including carpal tunnel
syndrome, bipolar disorder, sleep apnea, and obesity,
preclude him from engaging in substantial gainful activity.
August 28, 2013, the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) denied his application.
reconsideration, including a hearing held on January 8, 2015,
Administrative Law Judge Alan B. Berkowitz (the
“ALJ”) upheld the SSA's initial
determination. In particular, the ALJ issued a written
decision concluding that, during the period of time from
December 31, 2011 through April 3, 2015 (the “Relevant
Time Period”), the Plaintiff retained the functional
capacity to perform a modified range of “medium
work” jobs, which existed in significant numbers in the
the Appeals Council denied the Plaintiff's request for an
additional administrative review, on July 28, 2015, the
ALJ's written decision became the final decision of the
September 14, 2015, the Plaintiff commenced this civil
February 19, 2016, the Plaintiff moved under the provisions
of Rule 12(c) for judgment on the pleadings, and on May 6,
2016, the Commissioner cross-moved for similar relief.
purposes of these motions, familiarity with the underlying
administrative record is presumed. The Court's discussion
of the evidence will be limited to the specific challenges
presently raised by the Plaintiff. In this regard, references
to the record are denoted as “R.”
Standard of Review
review of the denial of disability benefits is narrow”
and “[t]he Court will set aside the Commissioner's
conclusions only if they are not supported by substantial
evidence in the record as a whole or are based on an
erroneous legal standard.” Koffsky v. Apfel,
26 F.Supp. 475, 478 (E.D.N.Y. Nov. 16, 1998) (Spatt,
“the reviewing court does not decide the case de
novo.” Pereira v. Astrue, 279 F.R.D. 201,
205 (E.D.N.Y. 2010). Rather, “the findings of the
Commissioner as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, are conclusive, ” id., and
therefore, the relevant question is not “whether there
is substantial evidence to support the [claimant's]
view”; instead, the Court “must decide whether
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
decision.” Bonet v. Colvin, 523 F.
App'x 58, 59 (2d Cir. 2013) (emphasis in original). In
this way, the “substantial evidence” standard is
“very deferential” to the Commissioner, and
allows courts to reject the ALJ's findings “
‘only if a reasonable factfinder would have to
conclude otherwise.' ” Brault v. SSA,
683 F.3d 443, 448 (2d Cir. 2012) (quoting Warren v.
Shalala, 29 F.3d 1287, 1290 (8th Cir. 1994)) (emphasis
in original). This deferential standard applies not only to
factual determinations, but also to inferences and
conclusions drawn from such facts.” Pena v.
Barnhart, No. 01-cv-502, 2002 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21427, at
*20 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 29, 2002) (citing Levine v.
Gardner, 360 F.2d 727, 730 (2d Cir. 1966)).
context, “ ‘[s]ubstantial evidence' means
‘more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.' ” Burgess v.
Astrue, 537 F.3d 117, 128 (2d Cir. 2008) (quoting
Halloran v. Barnhart, 362 F.3d 28, 31 (2d Cir.
2004)). An ALJ's findings may properly rest on
substantial evidence even where he or she fails to
“recite every piece of evidence that contributed to the
decision, so long as the record ‘permits [the Court] to
glean the rationale of [his or her] decision.' ”
Cichocki v. Astrue, 729 F.3d 172, 178 n.3 (2d Cir.
2013) (quoting Mongeur v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1033,
1040 (2d Cir. 1983)). This remains true “even if
contrary evidence exists.” Mackey v. Barnhart,