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Boland v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. New York

April 27, 2017

SEAN MICHAEL BOLAND, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          OFFICE OF PETER M. MARGOLIUS Counsel for Plaintiff PETER M. MARGOLIUS

          U.S. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN. OFFICE OF REG'L GEN. COUNSEL - REGION II Counsel for Defendant DAVID L. BROWN, ESQ.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          GLENN T. SUDDABY, Chief United States District Judge.

         Currently before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by Sean Michael Boland (“Plaintiff”) against the Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or “the Commissioner”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), are Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings and Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. No. 10, 11.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings is denied and 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.

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff was born in 1982, making him 29 years old at the date of the previous final Agency decision that had found him not disabled and 31 years old at the date of the final Agency decision at issue in this appeal. Plaintiff has a ninth grade education, and past work as a fast food clerk and a hole digger. Plaintiff was insured for disability benefits under Title II until September 30, 2012. Generally, Plaintiff alleges disability consisting of a learning disability, memory problems, depression, and acid reflux.

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff applied for Title II Disability Insurance Benefits and Title XVI Supplemental Security Income on March 8, 2012. In both applications, Plaintiff alleged disability beginning October 1, 2007.[1] Plaintiff's application was initially denied on June 4, 2012, after which he timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). On July 18, 2013, Plaintiff appeared at a video hearing before ALJ Mary Sparks. On September 3, 2013, the ALJ issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act. (T. 14-24.) On September 18, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (T. 1-3.)

         C. The ALJ's Decision

         Generally, in her 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 December 3, 2011, the date after the previous final Agency determination. (T. 16.) Second, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's dysthymic disorder, personality disorder not otherwise specified with avoidant features, and learning disorder not otherwise specified are severe impairments. (T. 16-17.) Third, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's severe impairment does not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, App. 1 (the “Listings”). (T. 17-18.) More specifically, the ALJ considered Listings 12.00 (mental impairments) and Listing 12.05 (mental retardation). (Id.) Fourth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform

a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: the claimant is limited to performing simple, repetitive tasks in low stress occupations defined as those having no more than occasional decision making required and no more than occasional changes in the work setting and may have no more than occasional interaction with the public or coworkers and supervisors.

(T. 18.) Fifth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. (T. 22.) Sixth, and finally, the ALJ determined that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform, including hand packer, cleaner II, sandwich maker, cafeteria attendant, final assembler, and hand trimmer. (T. 22-23.)

         D. The Parties' Briefings on Their Cross-Motions

         Generally, Plaintiff asserts one argument in support of his motion for judgment on the pleadings. Plaintiff argues that the RFC determination was not supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 10, at 3-4 [Pl. Mem. of Law].) More specifically, Plaintiff argues that “substantial evidence in the record [specifically opinions from examining psychiatric physician Dr. Schleuderer, consultative examiner Dr. Gindes, Social Worker Clark, and Social Worker Fried] supports a finding that the claimant is limited to simple work with significant repetition, would require work with no changes in the work settings or decision making, and is limited to less than occasional interaction with the others.” (Id.)

         Generally, Defendant asserts one argument in support of her motion for judgment on the pleadings. Defendant argues that the ALJ's mental RFC assessment was supported by substantial evidence, including the treatment records, education records, and the opinion of State Agency psychological consultant Dr. Ferrin (to which the ALJ afforded the greatest weight). (Dkt. No. 11 at 4-8 [Def. Mem. of Law].) More specifically, Defendant argues that, in determining Plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ properly considered and weighed the opinions from Dr. Gindes and Social Worker Fried, that the ALJ's findings were not inconsistent with Dr. Schleuderer's opinion and examination, and that the Global Assessment of Functioning (“GAF”) score assessed by Social Worker Clark and Dr. Markarian on one occasion was not controlling evidence of mental disability. (Dkt. No. 11, at 8-14 [Def. Mem. of Law].)

         II. RELEVANT LEGAL STANDARD

         A. ...


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