United States District Court, N.D. New York
OFFICES OF STEVEN R. DOLSON STEVEN R. DOLSON, ESQ. Attorney
SECURITY ADMINISTRATION MICHELLE L. CHRIST, ESQ. Attorney for
MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER
J. Stewart Magistrate Judge
action, Plaintiff Michael Kane moves, pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), for review of a decision by the Acting
Commissioner of Social Security denying his application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Period
of Disability (“POD”). Based upon the following
discussion, the Acting Commissioner's decision denying
Social Security benefits is affirmed.
born on November 21, 1969, filed an application for DIB and
POD on November 25, 2013, claiming an inability to work as of
March 29, 2012, due to a variety of ailments, including
lumbar spine impairment, ruptured discs, degenerative
arthritis, and bilateral lower extremity neuropathy. Dkt. No.
10, Admin. Tr. [hereinafter “Tr.”] at pp. 15, 22,
57, 80, 153-55, & 181. Kane graduated high school and his
past work includes working with individuals, aged twelve
through eighteen, as a youth group worker. Id. at
pp. 16, 22, & 58-59. On March 29, 2012, the alleged onset
disability date, Plaintiff sustained an injury to his back at
work while breaking up a fight between the youths that he
watched. Id. at p. 294. Prior to this incident,
records reflect that Kane had prior history of chronic back
pain treated with opiates. Id. at p. 295.
disability application was denied on initial review.
Id. at pp. 79, 80-88, & 91-102. On January 22,
2015, a Hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Rosanne M. Dummer wherein testimony was
procured from Kane, who was accompanied by an attorney, and
from Mark A. Pinti, a vocational expert
(“VE”). Id. at pp. 53-78. On April 3,
2015, ALJ Dummer issued an unfavorable decision finding that
Kane was not disabled. Id. at pp. 9-27. On May 25,
2016, the Appeals Council concluded there was no basis to
review the ALJ's decision, thus rendering the ALJ's
decision the final determination of the Acting Commissioner.
Id. at pp. 1-6. Exhausting all of his options for
review through the Social Security Administration's
tribunals, Plaintiff now brings this appeal.
Standard of Review
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the proper standard of review for
this Court is not to employ a de novo review, but
rather to discern whether substantial evidence supports the
Commissioner's findings and that the correct legal
standards have been applied. See Rivera v. Sullivan,
923 F.2d 964, 967 (2d Cir. 1991); Urtz v. Callahan,
965 F.Supp. 324, 325-26 (N.D.N.Y. 1997) (citing, inter
alia, Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d 983, 985 (2d
Cir. 1987)). Succinctly defined, substantial evidence is
“more than a mere scintilla” of evidence
scattered throughout the administrative record; rather, it is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Consol. Edison Co. of New York v. N.L.R.B., 305 U.S.
197, 229 (1938); see also Williams ex. rel. Williams v.
Bowen, 859 F.2d 255, 258 (2d Cir. 1988). “To
determine on appeal whether an [Administrative Law
Judge's] findings are supported by substantial evidence,
a reviewing court considers the whole record, examining the
evidence from both sides, because an analysis of the
substantiality of the evidence must also include that which
detracts from its weight.” Williams ex. rel.
Williams v. Bowen, 859 F.2d at 258.
must set forth the crucial factors supporting the decision
with sufficient specificity. Ferraris v. Heckler,
728 F.2d 582, 587 (2d Cir. 1984). Where the ALJ's
findings are supported by substantial evidence, the court may
not interject its interpretation of the administrative
record. Williams ex rel. Williams v. Bowen, 859 F.2d
at 258; 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). However, where the weight of
the evidence does not meet the requirement for substantial
evidence or a reasonable basis for doubt exists as to whether
correct legal principles were applied, the ALJ's decision
may not be affirmed. Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d at
Determination of Disability
considered disabled within the meaning of the Social Security
Act, a plaintiff must establish an “inability to engage
in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any
medically determinable physical or mental impairment which
can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can
be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). Furthermore,
the claimant's physical or mental impairments must be of
such severity as to prevent engagement in any kind of
substantial gainful work which exists in the national
economy. Id. at § 423(d)(2)(A).
determining whether a claimant is disabled, the Commissioner
follows a five-step analysis set forth in the Social Security
Administration Regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. At
Step One, the Commissioner “considers whether the
claimant is currently engaged in gainful activity.”
Berry v. Schweiker, 675 F.2d 464, 467 (2d Cir.
1982). If the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful
activity, he or she is not disabled and the inquiry ends. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). If the claimant is not engaged in
substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner proceeds to
Step Two and assesses whether the claimant suffers from a
severe impairment that significantly limits his or her
physical or mental ability to do basic work activities.
Id. at § 404.1520(c). If the claimant suffers
from a severe impairment, the Commissioner considers at Step
Three whether such impairment(s) meets or equals an
impairment listed in Appendix 1, in Part 404, Subpart P of
the Regulations. Id. at § 404.1520(d). The
Commissioner makes this assessment without considering
vocational factors such as age, education, and work
experience. Berry v. Schweiker, 675 F.2d at 467.
Where the claimant has such an impairment the inquiry ceases
as he or she is presumed to be disabled and unable to perform
substantial gainful activity. Id. If the
claimant's impairment(s) does not meet or equal the
listed impairments, the Commissioner proceeds to Step Four
and considers whether the claimant has the residual