United States District Court, N.D. New York
AMANDA L. HAZELTON, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
L. HAZELTON Plaintiff, Pro Se.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN. OFFICE OF REG'L GEN. COUNSEL -
REGION II Counsel for Defendant
J. KAISER, ESQ.
DECISION AND ORDER
T. SUDDABY, Chief United States District Judge.
before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by
Amanda L. Hazelton (“Plaintiff”) against the
Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or
“the Commissioner”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g), is Defendant's motion for judgment on the
pleadings. (Dkt. No. 13.) For the reasons set forth below,
Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings is
granted. The Commissioner's decision denying
Plaintiff's disability benefits is affirmed, and
Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed.
was born in 1980, making her 31 years old at the alleged
onset date and 34 years old at the date of the final Agency
decision. Plaintiff has a high school education with an
associate's degree, and past work as a convenience store
clerk and floral assistant/florist-retail sales clerk.
Plaintiff was insured for disability benefits under Title II
until December 31, 2016. Generally, Plaintiff alleges
disability consisting of post-traumatic stress disorder
(“PTSD”), bipolar disorder, depression, and
social anxiety disorder.
applied for Title II Disability Insurance Benefits on May 10,
2012, alleging disability beginning November 12, 2011.
Plaintiff's application was initially denied on September
7, 2012, after which she timely requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). On June 19,
2015, Plaintiff appeared at a video hearing before ALJ
Grenville W. Harrop Jr. (T. 23, 36.) On September 19, 2014,
the ALJ issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not
disabled under the Social Security Act. (T. 23-36.) On
February 18, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. (T. 1-3.)
The ALJ's Decision
in his decision, the ALJ made the following six findings of
fact and conclusions of law. (T. 13-21.) First, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since November 12, 2011, the alleged onset date. (T.
24.) Second, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's arterial
hypertension, hypothyroidism, asthma, bipolar disorder,
depressive disorder, PTSD, unspecified personality disorder,
and cannabis abuse in remission are severe impairments. (T.
25.) Third, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's severe
impairments, alone or in combination, do not meet or
medically equal one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R.
§ 404, Subpart P, App. 1 (the “Listings”).
(T. 25-33.) More specifically, the ALJ considered Listings
4.00 (cardiovascular system impairments), 9.00 (endocrine
disorders), 12.00 (mental disorders), 12.04 (affective
disorders), 12.06 (anxiety-related disorders), and 12.08
(personality disorders). (Id.) Fourth, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. [§] 404.1567(b)
except frequent contact with others. In addition, the
claimant has moderate limitations in her capacity to interact
appropriately with others, maintain socially appropriate
behavior without exhibiting behavioral excitement and
function at a consistent pace in a work setting.
(T. 33.) In his discussion, the ALJ also indicated that he
limited Plaintiff to “unskilled, simple and repetitive
work activity.” (T. 33.) Fifth, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff has past work as a convenience store clerk (light,
SVP 2) and floral assistant/florist-retail sales clerk
(light, SVP 3), though the ALJ also found that Plaintiff is
unable to perform this past work based on the restrictions in
her RFC. (T. 34.) Sixth, and finally, the ALJ determined that
there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy that Plaintiff can perform, including
housekeeping, plastic molding machine tender, and small
products assembly worker. (T. 34-35.)
The Parties' Briefings on Their Cross-Motions
did not file a brief in this matter despite being afforded
multiple opportunities to do so. (See generally
Docket Sheet.) The Court is entitled to consider the record
without the benefit of any arguments she might have put
forth. General Order #18, at 7.
Defendant asserts three arguments in support of her motion
for judgment on the pleadings. First, Defendant argues that
the ALJ's Step Three determination (finding Plaintiff did
not meet or equal a Listed impairment and that Plaintiff had
no restriction in activities of daily living, moderate
difficulties in social functioning, moderate difficulties in
maintaining concentration, persistence, and pace, and no
repeated episodes of decompensation of extended duration) was
supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 13, at 16-20
[Def. Mem. of Law].) Second, Defendant argues that the RFC
determination is supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No.
13, at 20-23 [Def. Mem. of Law].) More specifically,
Defendant argues that the opinion evidence from consultative
examiner Dr. Hansen, State Agency psychological consultant
Dr. Tzetzo, and treating physician Dr. Patel supported the
ALJ's finding of moderate mental limitations and that
consultative examiner Dr. Caldwell's opinion overall did
not support a finding of disability. (Dkt. No. 13, at 20-21
[Def. Mem. of Law].) Defendant also argues that the ALJ's
credibility findings made as part of assessing the RFC were
supported by legally sufficient reasons and substantial
evidence. (Dkt. No. 13, ...