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Augusta v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. New York

April 27, 2017

DANIEL JOSEPH AUGUSTA, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

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

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

          MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

          William B. Mitchell Carter, U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         This 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, and 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, 22.)

         Currently before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by Daniel Joseph Augusta (“Plaintiff”) against the Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or “the Commissioner”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), are the parties' cross- motions for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. Nos. 11, 20.) For the reasons set forth below, it is ordered that Plaintiff's motion is denied and Defendant's motion is granted.

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff was born in 1989. (T. 53.) He completed high school. (T. 153.) Generally, Plaintiff's alleged disability consists of scoliosis and a learning disability. (T. 152.) His alleged disability onset date is November 20, 2012. (T. 32.) He previously worked as a cashier/stock person. (T. 36.)

         B. Procedural History

         On November 20, 2012, Plaintiff applied for a period of Disability Insurance Benefits (“SSD”) under Title II, and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI, of the Social Security Act. (T. 64.) Plaintiff's applications were initially denied, after which he timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“the ALJ”). On May 15, 2014, Plaintiff appeared before the ALJ, Michelle S. Marcus. (T. 28-52.) At the hearing, Plaintiff amended his alleged onset date of disability to November 20, 2012 and as a result he was no longer entitled to a period of disability under Title II of the Act. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.130, 404.131, 404.315 (2012). On September 15, 2014, ALJ Marcus issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act. (T. 12-27.) On January 12, 2016, the Appeals Council (“AC”) denied Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (T. 1-7.) Thereafter, Plaintiff timely sought judicial review in this Court.

         C. The ALJ's Decision

         Generally, in her decision, the ALJ made the following five findings of fact and conclusions of law. (T. 17-24.) First, the ALJ found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements through June 30, 2011 and was not eligible for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits as of the amended alleged onset date of November 20, 2012, due to lack of insurance status and Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 20, 2012. (T. 17-18.) Second, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of Kyphoscoliosis and a learning disability. (T. 18.) Third, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments located in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix. 1. (T.18-19.) Fourth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform unskilled sedentary work[1]; however, Plaintiff could frequently use his upper extremities for fingering, feeling, and handling and occasionally bend, stoop, crouch, crawl, kneel, balance, climb stairs and ramps, reach overhead, and operate foot controls. (T. 19-20.) Further, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could have occasional exposure to vibrations and extremes of heat and cold, never unprotected heights, ladders or scaffolds. (T. 20.) Fifth, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was incapable of performing his past relevant work; however, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform. (T. 22-23.)

         II. THE PARTIES' BRIEFINGS ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION

         A. Plaintiff's Arguments

         Plaintiff essentially makes two arguments in support of his motion for judgment on the pleadings. First, Plaintiff argues the ALJ's RFC determination was not supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 11 at 3-4 [Pl.'s Mem. of Law].) Second, and lastly, Plaintiff argues the ALJ's step five determination was not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ should have called on a vocational expert (“VE”) to testify. (Id. at 4.)

         B. ...


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