United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
MICHAEL A. TELESCA, JUDGE
by counsel, John Courtney (“plaintiff”) brings
this action pursuant to Titles II and XVI of the Social
Security Act (“the Act”), seeking review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“the Commissioner”) denying his applications for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and
supplemental security income (“SSI”). 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, the
Commissioner's motion is granted.
record reveals that in May 2011, plaintiff filed applications
for DIB and SSI, alleging disability beginning March 1, 2011.
After his applications were denied, plaintiff requested a
hearing, which was held before administrative law judge
Grenville Harrop, III (“the ALJ”) on December 20,
2012. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on March 5,
2013. The Appeals Council denied review of that decision and
this timely action followed.
The ALJ's Decision
the ALJ found that plaintiff satisfied the insured status
requirements of the Act through June 30, 2012. At step one of
the five-step sequential evaluation, see 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520, 416.920, the ALJ found that plaintiff
had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March
1, 2011, the alleged onset date. At step two, the ALJ found
that plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of
diabetes, diabetic neuropathy, diabetic retinopathy, and
stage three kidney disease. At step three, the ALJ found that
plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or medically equaled a listed
proceeding to step four, the ALJ found that plaintiff
retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1567(b), 416.967(b), “except that [he was] limited
to frequently performing fine manipulations with his hands
and [was] unable to operate dangerous machinery or drive a
motor vehicle at night.” T. 24-25. At step four, the
ALJ found that plaintiff was capable of performing past
relevant work as a retail sales associate. Accordingly, the
ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled and did not proceed
to step five.
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).
Reliance on Opinions of Consulting Examiners
contends that the ALJ's reliance on two consulting
examining opinions resulted in an RFC finding that was not
supported by substantial evidence. Dr. Donna Miller completed
the first examination on September 28, 2010. Plaintiff
reported to Dr. Miller that he suffered from diabetic
retinopathy and that he was scheduled to have right eye laser
surgery in October. Plaintiff's corrected vision was
20/50 in the right eye and 20/25 in the left, with both eyes
20/25 on a Snellen chart at 20 feet. Otherwise, his physical
examination was normal. Dr. Miller opined that plaintiff had
“mild limitation with repetitive motion of his hands
secondary to his neuropathy.” T. 228.
Samuel Balderman completed a second consulting examination on
July 5, 2011. Plaintiff reported that he had had laser
surgery on both eyes, and was scheduled for cataract surgery
the next week. Plaintiff demonstrated 20/40 vision in the
right eye, 20/25 vision in the left, and both eyes 20/25 on a
Snellen chart at 20 feet. Plaintiff's physical
examination was otherwise normal. Dr. Balderman opined that
plaintiff “appear[ed] to have mild visual impairment
due to his diabetes, ” noting that he was
“scheduled to have a surgical procedure on the right
eye next week.” T. 298.
gave “substantial weight” to Dr. Miller's
opinion, which he incorrectly stated was completed in
November 2011. T. 26. The ALJ did not explicitly weigh Dr.
Balderman's opinion, but noted that his
“examination elicited virtually identical findings as
those of Dr. Miller.” Id. Plaintiff contends
that the ALJ's mistake as to the date of Dr. Miller's
examination was prejudicial, because plaintiff's alleged
onset date was March 2011 and Dr. Miller's exam was
performed in September 2010. Plaintiff further contends that
the examinations of Drs. Miller and Balderman “were not
reasonably tailored to the nature of [plaintiff's]
conditions, and thus could not amount to substantial