United States District Court, W.D. New York
DONNA M. ANDERSON, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
MICHAEL A. TELESCA, United States District Judge
by counsel, Donna M. Anderson (“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 her 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 August 2011, plaintiff (d/o/b October
19, 1968) filed applications for DIB and SSI, alleging
disability beginning September 8, 2011. After her
applications were denied, plaintiff requested a hearing,
which was held before administrative law judge Gitel Reich
(“the ALJ”) on April 23, 2013. The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on June 25, 2013. The Appeals Council
denied review of that decision and this timely action
The ALJ's Decision
the ALJ found that plaintiff satisfied the insured status
requirements of the Act through December 31, 2015. 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
September 8, 2011, the alleged onset date. At step two, the
ALJ found that plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments
of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma currently in remission,
asthma/COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder), and
degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine. At step
three, the ALJ found that plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled a listed impairment.
proceeding to step four, the ALJ found that plaintiff
retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1567(a), 416.967(a) except that she could
not work in an environment with more than occasional exposure
to respiratory irritants, and she could not perform a job
that requires rapid neck movements. At step four, the ALJ
found that plaintiff was incapable of performing past
relevant work. At step five, the ALJ found that considering
plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC,
there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the
national economy that she could perform. Accordingly, the ALJ
found that plaintiff was not disabled.
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).
Step Two Finding
contends that the ALJ erred in finding that her depression
was not severe at step two. The ALJ made a specific finding
that plaintiff's depression was non-severe, finding that
the condition “[did] not add on any additional
limitations to her [RFC], ” and noting that Wellbutrin
helped treat the symptoms of plaintiff's depression. The
ALJ also found that plaintiff had only mild limitations in
activities of daily living, social functioning, and
concentration, persistence, or pace. For the reasons set
forth below, the Court concludes that the ALJ did not err at
step two by finding plaintiff's depression non-severe.
the applicable regulations, an impairment is considered to be
‘non-severe' if it ‘does not significantly
limit [the claimant's] physical or mental ability to do
basic work activities.'” Patterson v.
Colvin, 24 F.Supp.3d 356, 368 (S.D.N.Y. 2014) (citing 20
C.F.R. § 416.921(a)). The record reveals that plaintiff
first reported “some depression” to her primary
care physician, Dr. Erika Connor, on January 24, 2012, but
“state[d] that [it was] very bearable and decline[d]
any intervention either by psychology consult or with
medication.” T. 455. Later, on October 31, 2012, Dr.
Connor prescribed Wellbutrin,  apparently for depressive
symptoms. On January 9, 2013, Dr. Connor increased
plaintiff's Wellbutrin prescription, noting that
plaintiff reported to him that her prescription “may
not be strong enough.” T. 535. On February 6, 2013, Dr.
Connor noted that plaintiff's depression was
“stable.” T. 529. At the supplemental hearing,
the ALJ asked plaintiff what symptoms of depression she
experienced, and plaintiff responded that she “[j]ust .
. . had some thoughts of suicide but [she] could never do it
because of [her] children.” T. 570. She then testified
that her Wellbutrin helped since Dr. Connor increased her
on the facts in this record, the Court finds that substantial
evidence supports the ALJ's decision that plaintiff's
depression was not a severe impairment within the meaning of
the regulations. There is no indication from the record that
plaintiff's depression contributed to any limitations on
work-related functioning. Moreover, as the ALJ noted,
plaintiff did not seek treatment from a psychiatric source,
electing instead to have medication management by her primary
care physician. See, e.g., Patterson v. Colvin, 24
F.Supp.3d 356, 369 (S.D.N.Y. 2014) (affirming finding that