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Dittmar v. Comm'R of Soc. Sec.

United States District Court, N.D. New York

May 30, 2017

EVELYN DITTMAR, Plaintiff,
v.
COMM'R OF SOC. SEC., Defendant.

         APPEARANCES:

          LAW OFFICES OF STEVEN R. DOLSON Counsel for Plaintiff

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

         OF COUNSEL:

          STEVEN R. DOLSON, ESQ.

          SANDRA M. GROSSFELD, ESQ.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          Christian F. Hummel U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         Currently before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by Evelyn Dittmar (“Plaintiff”) against the Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or “the Commissioner”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), are Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings and Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. Nos. 10, 20.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted in part and denied in part, and Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings is denied in part and granted in part.[1]

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff was born in 1971, making her 38 years old at her alleged onset date and 43 years old at the date last insured. Plaintiff has a 12th grade education and she reported past work as a bus monitor, personal care assistant, kitchen aide, and retail clerk. Generally, Plaintiff alleges disability consisting of arthritis in her hands and knees, depression, thyroid problems, claustrophobia, diabetes, nerve damage in her right hand, and hypertension.

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff applied for Disability Insurance Benefits on November 27, 2012. (T. 131) Plaintiff's application was initially denied on April 22, 2013, after which she timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (T. 94) Plaintiff appeared at a hearing before ALJ Michelle S. Marcus on July 17, 2014. (T. 34). On January 5, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act. (T. 12-26.)[2] On March 23, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”). (T. 1-3, 6-8.)

         C. The ALJ's Decision

         Generally, in her decision, the ALJ made the following seven findings of fact and conclusions of law. (T. 14-25.) First, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was insured for disability benefits under Title II until December 31, 2014. (T. 14.) Second, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 9, 2009, the alleged onset date. (Id.) Third, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's left hamstring tendonitis, left knee arthritis with meniscal tear, status-post carpal tunnel release surgery, status-post fusion in the first metacarpal joint of the left thumb, and morbid obesity are severe impairments, while her hypertension, asthma, hypothyroidism, diabetes, depression, anxiety, adjustment disorder, and pain disorder are not severe impairments. (T. 14-15.) Fourth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's severe impairments do not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, App. 1 (the “Listings”). (T. 17.) More specifically, the ALJ considered Listing 1.00 (musculoskeletal impairments) and 1.02 (major dysfunction of a joint). (Id.) Fifth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform

light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except the claimant could stand and walk, in combination, a total of six hours in an eight-hour day, for one hour at a time continuously. Sit six hours per day, lift and carry 10 pounds continuously and 20 pounds occasionally. She had unrestricted use of right upper extremity and could occasionally handle, finger, feel, and push pull with left upper extremity, but was unrestricted for reaching. She could occasionally climb stairs and ramps, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. No ...

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