United States District Court, W.D. New York
PATRICIA A. CARNEY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
FRANK P. GERACI, JR. Chief Judge.
A. Carney (“Carney” or “Plaintiff”)
brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act
(“the Act”) seeking review of the final decision
of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“the
Commissioner”) that denied her application for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Act. ECF No. 1. The Court has jurisdiction over
this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
parties have moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). ECF Nos. 10, 11. For
the reasons that follow, the Commissioner's motion is
GRANTED and Plaintiff's motion is DENIED.
31, 2012, Carney protectively applied for DIB with the Social
Security Administration (“the SSA”).
183-87. She alleged that she had been disabled since March 5,
2011 due to cervical disc fracture, neck pain, right wrist
injury, breast cancer, depression, and anxiety. Tr. 205. On
December 13, 2013, Carney and a vocational expert
(“VE”) appeared and testified at a hearing before
Administrative Law Judge William M. Weir (“the
ALJ”). Tr. 35-73. On September 26, 2014, the ALJ issued
a decision finding that Carney was not disabled within the
meaning of the Act. Tr. 18-29. On February 9, 2016, the
Appeals Council denied Carney's request for review. Tr.
1-4. Thereafter, Carney commenced this action seeking review
of the Commissioner's final decision. ECF No. 1.
District Court Review
reviewing a final decision of the SSA, this Court is limited
to determining whether the SSA's conclusions were
supported by substantial evidence in the record and were
based on a correct legal standard.” Talavera v.
Astrue, 697 F.3d 145, 151 (2d Cir. 2012) (quotation
marks omitted); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
The Act holds that a decision by the Commissioner is
“conclusive” if it is supported by substantial
evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “Substantial
evidence means more than a mere scintilla. It means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Moran v.
Astrue, 569 F.3d 108, 112 (2d Cir. 2009) (quotation
marks omitted). It is not the Court's function to
“determine de novo whether [the claimant] is
disabled.” Schaal v. Apfel, 134 F.3d 496, 501
(2d Cir. 1998) (quotation marks omitted); see also Wagner
v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 906 F.2d 856,
860 (2d Cir. 1990) (holding that review of the
Secretary's decision is not de novo and that the
Secretary's findings are conclusive if supported by
must follow a five-step sequential evaluation to determine
whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Act.
See Parker v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 470-71
(1986). At step one, the ALJ must determine whether the
claimant is engaged in substantial gainful work activity.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). If so, the
claimant is not disabled. If not, the ALJ proceeds to step
two and determines whether the claimant has an impairment, or
combination of impairments, that is “severe”
within the meaning of the Act, meaning that it imposes
significant restrictions on the claimant's ability to
perform basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c).
If the claimant does not have a severe impairment or
combination of impairments, the analysis concludes with a
finding of “not disabled.” If the claimant does,
the ALJ continues to step three.
three, the ALJ examines whether a claimant's impairment
meets or medically equals the criteria of a listed impairment
in Appendix 1 of Subpart P of Regulation No. 4 (the
“Listings”). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). If the
impairment meets or medically equals the criteria of a
Listing and meets the durational requirement (20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1509), the claimant is disabled. If not, the ALJ
determines the claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”), which is the ability to perform physical
or mental work activities on a sustained basis,
notwithstanding limitations for the collective impairments.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e)-(f).
then proceeds to step four and determines whether the
claimant's RFC permits him or her to perform the
requirements of his or her past relevant work. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(f). If the claimant can perform such
requirements, then he or she is not disabled. If he or she
cannot, the analysis proceeds to the fifth and final step,
wherein the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that
the claimant is not disabled. To do so, the Commissioner must
present evidence to demonstrate that the claimant
“retains a residual functional capacity to perform
alternative substantial gainful work which exists in the
national economy” in light of his or her age,
education, and work experience. See Rosa v.
Callahan, 168 F.3d 72, 77 (2d Cir. 1999) (quotation
marks omitted); see also 20 C.F.R. §
The ALJ's Decision
ALJ's decision analyzed Carney's claim for benefits
under the process described above. At step one, the ALJ found
that Carney had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
from her alleged disability onset date to March 31, 2013, her
date last insured. Tr. 20. At step two, the ALJ found that
Carney has the following severe impairments: degenerative
disc disease of the cervical spine, and right knee, leg, and
back pain. Tr. 20-22. At step three, the ALJ found that these
impairments, alone or in combination, did not meet or
medically equal an impairment in the Listings. Tr. 22-23.
the ALJ determined that Carney retained the RFC to perform
light work except she can have no more than frequent
contact with coworkers, supervisors, and the public. Tr.
23-27. At step four, the ALJ relied on the VE's testimony
and found that this RFC allows Carney to perform her past
relevant work as a remittance clerk. Tr. 27-28. The
ALJ made an alternative finding at step five and relied on
the VE's testimony to determine that Carney can adjust to
other work that exists in significant numbers in the national
economy given her RFC, age, education, and work experience.
Tr. 28-29. Specifically, the VE testified that Carney ...