United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION & ORDER
W. PAYSON United States Magistrate Judge
Jill Marie Mura (“Mura”) brings this action
pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the
“Commissioner”) denying her application for
Supplemental Security Income Benefits (“SSI”).
Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties have
consented to the disposition of this case by a United States
magistrate judge. (Docket # 14).
before the Court are the parties' motions for judgment on
the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of
Civil Procedure. (Docket ## 11, 12). For the reasons set
forth below, I hereby vacate the decision of the Commissioner
and remand this claim for further administrative proceedings
consistent with this decision.
applied for SSI alleging disability beginning on November 1,
2012, due to asthma, anxiety, depression, degenerative disc
disease, morbid obesity, bursitis in her left shoulder,
arthritis in her knees, and acid reflux. (Tr. 258,
262). On February 19, 2013, the Social Security
Administration denied Mura's claim for benefits, finding
that she was not disabled. (Tr. 114). Mura requested and was
granted a hearing before Administrative Law Judge John P.
Costello (the “ALJ”). (Tr. 29, 152, 196-98). The
ALJ conducted a hearing on September 18, 2014. (Tr. 29-54).
In a decision dated November 24, 2014, the ALJ found that
Mura was not disabled and was not entitled to benefits. (Tr.
January 4, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Mura's
request for review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 1-4). Mura
commenced this action on March 11, 2016, seeking review of
the Commissioner's decision. (Docket # 1).
Relevant Medical Evidence
record indicates that Mura began receiving primary care
treatment from Rana Masood (“Masood”), M.D., as
early as October 2009 and continued receiving primary care
treatment from her until approximately September 2012. (Tr.
135, 265, 267, 289, 293, 344, 346, 371, 373, 417). The
records suggest that Masood treated Mura for a variety of
complaints, both mental and physical, including asthma,
anemia, low back and thoracic spine pain, acid reflux,
anxiety, and depression. (Id.). Beginning in
December 2012, Mura began receiving primary care treatment
from Susan Areeckal (“Areeckal”), M.D. (Tr. 353).
The record suggests that Mura continued to receive treatment
from Areeckal until the time of the administrative hearing.
(Tr. 359, 386, 393, 395, 397, 400, 407).
2, 2011, Masood completed a physical assessment for
determination of employability relating to Mura. (Tr.
375-78). Masood reported that Mura suffered from shoulder and
back pain and was unable to use public transportation or to
squat. (Id.). Masood opined that Mura was
“very limited” in her ability to walk, stand,
sit, push, pull, bend, lift, and carry. (Id.). The
form defined “very limited” to mean an ability to
perform those functions an estimated one to two hours per
eight-hour workday. (Id.).
Standard of Review
Court's scope of review is limited to whether the
Commissioner's determination is supported by substantial
evidence in the record and whether the Commissioner applied
the correct legal standards. See Butts v. Barnhart,
388 F.3d 377, 384 (2d Cir. 2004) (“[i]n reviewing a
final decision of the Commissioner, a district court must
determine whether the correct legal standards were applied
and whether substantial evidence supports the
decision”), reh'g granted in part and denied in
part, 416 F.3d 101 (2d Cir. 2005); see also Schaal
v. Apfel, 134 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1998) (“it is
not our function to determine de novo whether
plaintiff is disabled[;] . . . [r]ather, we must determine
whether the Commissioner's conclusions are supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole or are based on
an erroneous legal standard”) (internal citation and
quotation omitted). Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a
district court reviewing the Commissioner's determination
to deny disability benefits is directed to accept the
Commissioner's findings of fact unless they are not
supported by “substantial evidence.” See
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (“[t]he findings of the
Commissioner . . . as to any fact, if supported by
substantial evidence, shall be conclusive”).
Substantial evidence is defined as “more than a mere
scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)
(internal quotation omitted).
determine whether substantial evidence exists in the record,
the court must consider the record as a whole, examining the
evidence submitted by 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 255, 258 (2d Cir. 1988). To
the extent they are supported by substantial evidence, the
Commissioner's findings of fact must be sustained
“even where substantial evidence may support the
claimant's position and despite the fact that the
[c]ourt, had it heard the evidence de novo, might
have found otherwise.” Matejka v. Barnhart,
386 F.Supp.2d 198, 204 (W.D.N.Y. 2005) (citing Rutherford
v. Schweiker, 685 F.2d 60, 62 (2d Cir. 1982), cert.
denied, 459 U.S. 1212 (1983)).
person is disabled for the purposes of SSI and disability
benefits if he or she is unable “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) &
1382c(a)(3)(A). When assessing whether a claimant is
disabled, the ALJ must ...