United States District Court, W.D. New York
JESSICA M. FROST, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
MICHAEL A. TELESCA United States District Judge.
by counsel, plaintiff Jessica M. Frost
(“plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to the
Social Security Act (the “Act”), seeking review
of the final decision of defendant the Acting Commissioner of
Social Security (the “Commissioner” or
“defendant”) denying her application for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). The Court
has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). Presently before the Court are the
parties' cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings
pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure. For the reasons discussed below, plaintiff's
motion denied and the Commissioner's motion is granted.
filed an application for DIB on September 30, 2013, which was
denied. Administrative Transcript (“T.”) 101-104.
At plaintiff's request, a hearing was held before
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) Timothy M.
McGuan on March 24, 2014. T. 32-50. In a decision dated May
13, 2014, ALJ McGuan found that plaintiff was not disabled as
defined in the Act and denied her claim. T. 16-31. On
September 18, 2014, the Appeals Council issued an order
denying plaintiff's request for review, thereby rendering
ALJ McGuan's decision the Commissioner's final
determination. T. 9-11. Plaintiff subsequently filed this
The ALJ's Decision
the ALJ found that Plaintiff met the insured status
requirements of the Act through December 31, 2016. T. 18. At
step one of the five-step sequential evaluation, see 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920, the ALJ determined
that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since July 6, 2012, the alleged onset date.
Id. At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff
suffered from the severe impairments of post-traumatic stress
disorder (“PTSD”); major depressive disorder,
recurrent, mild to moderate; and alcohol, cocaine, and
cannabis abuse/dependence. Id. At step three, the
ALJ found that plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the
severity of any listed impairment. T. 19-20.
proceeding to step four, the ALJ determined that, considering
all of plaintiff's impairments, plaintiff retained the
RFC to perform “a full range of work at all exertional
levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: can
occasionally interact with the public; can occasionally
understand, remember, and carry out complex and detailed
tasks; and can be in an office environment. T. 20. At step
four, the ALJ found that plaintiff was unable to perform any
past relevant work. T. 27. At step five, the ALJ concluded
that, considering plaintiff's age, education, work
experience, and RFC, there are jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy that plaintiff can perform.
Id. Accordingly, the ALJ found plaintiff not
district court may set aside the Commissioner's
determination that a claimant is not disabled only if the
factual findings are not supported by “substantial
evidence” or if the decision is based on legal error.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also Green-Younger v.
Barnhart, 335 F.3d 99, 105-06 (2d Cir. 2003).
“Substantial evidence means ‘such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.'” Shaw v. Chater,
221 F.3d 126, 131 (2d Cir. 2000).
Internal Consistency of the ALJ's Decision
first argues that the ALJ's RFC determination was
unsupported by substantial evidence because it conflicted
with his own factual findings. Specifically, plaintiff
contends that (1) the ALJ's conclusion that plaintiff had
“moderate” limitations in social functioning and
concentration, persistence, and pace is not reflected in the
RFC, and (2) the ALJ's finding that plaintiff was
generally credible is inconsistent with his failure to
include her claimed inability to work around men and need to
nap in the RFC.
argument with respect to her limitations in social
functioning is without merit. This Court has consistently
held that “[a] determination that Plaintiff should not
have consistent contact with the general public accounts for
. . . moderate social limitations.” Gibbons
Thornton v. Colvin, No. 14-CV-748S, 2016 WL 611041 at *4
(W.D.N.Y. Feb. 16, 2016) (quotation omitted) (collecting
cases); see also Reilly v. Colvin, 2015 WL 6674955
at *3 (W.D.N.Y. Nov. 2, 2015) (“generally a limitation
to only occasional or limited contact with others has been
found sufficient to account for moderate limitations in
social functioning”) (quotation omitted). Here, the
ALJ's RFC determination limited plaintiff to only
occasional interaction with the public, thereby adequately
accounting for her moderate limitations in social
functioning. See Wozniak v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
2015 WL 4038568, at *4 (W.D.N.Y. June 30, 2015) (conclusion
that plaintiff had “moderate difficulties” in
social functioning does not compel the inclusion of social
functioning limitations in the RFC).
respect to plaintiff's moderate limitations in
concentration, persistence, and pace, the Court again finds
that no inconsistency with the ALJ's factual findings.
The Second Circuit has upheld an ALJ's determination that
a plaintiff with “moderate difficulties” in
concentration, persistence, or pace was capable of
“following directions, performing simple and some
complex tasks (with and without supervision), maintaining
concentration, attending to a routine, dealing with stress
(via medication), and working with others.”
McIntyre v. Colvin, 758 F.3d 146, 149 (2d Cir.
2014); see also Wells v. Colvin, 87 F.Supp.3d 421,
435 (W.D.N.Y. 2015) (upholding ALJ's ...