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Canestrare v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.

United States District Court, N.D. New York

July 21, 2017

RUSSELL JOSEPH CANESTRARE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMM'R OF SOC. SEC., Defendant.

          APPEARANCES: STANLEY LAW OFFICES, LLP Counsel for Plaintiff U.S. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN. OFFICE OF REG'L GEN. COUNSEL - REGION II

          OF COUNSEL: STEPHANIE VISCELLI, ESQ., JOSHUA L. KERSHNER, ESQ.

          MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

          Christian F. Hummel U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         Currently before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by Russell Joseph Canestrare (“Plaintiff”) against the Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or “the Commissioner”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), are Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings and Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. Nos. 9, 16.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings is denied, and Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted. The Commissioner's decision denying Plaintiff's disability benefits is affirmed, and Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed.

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff was born in 1952, making him 60 years old at the alleged onset date and the date last insured. (T. at 151.)[1] Plaintiff reported graduating high school and completing subsequent training and apprenticeship as an electrician. (Id. at 36) Plaintiff has past work as a journeyman electrician. (Id. at 37). Generally, Plaintiff alleges disability due to hypertension, diabetes, degenerative disc disease, cervical disc bulging with arm and neck pain, chronic back pain, and hyperlipidemia.

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff applied for Disability Insurance Benefits on May 23, 2013, alleging disability beginning April 1, 2007, which he later amended at the hearing to December 30, 2012. (T. at 34; 151-52). Plaintiff's application was initially denied on July 11, 2013, after which he timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Id. at 65). Plaintiff appeared at a hearing before ALJ F. Patrick Flanagan on January 8, 2015. (Id.at 30-58). On February 9, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act. (Id. at 18-25.) On May 24, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Id. at 1-3.)

         C. ALJ's Decision

         Applying the five-step sequential evaluation, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2012 and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity from the amended alleged onset date of December 30, 2012 until the date last insured. (T. at 20) At step two of the sequential evaluation, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had medically determinable impairments of degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, hypercholesterolemia, and obesity. (Id.) At step three, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that significantly limited his ability to perform basic work-related activities for 12 consecutive months through the date last insured, and, therefore, did not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments. (Id. at 21.) Because Plaintiff did not have a severe impairment, the ALJ concluded that he was not under a disability between the alleged onset date of December 30, 2012 through the date last insured of December 31, 2012. (Id. at 25.)

         D. Parties' Arguments

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred insofar as he failed to find the presence of a severe impairment that existed before the date last insured. (Dkt. No. 9, at 4-5 [Pl. Mem. of Law].) Specifically, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ should have determined that his cervical spine impairment was severe. (Id.) Defendant argues the ALJ's finding of no severe impairment is supported by substantial evidence, noting that the relevant period between Plaintiff's alleged onset date and date last insured was only two days, and that Plaintiff had to prove he was disabled during that period. (Dkt. No. 16, at 5-10 [Def. Mem. of Law].) Defendant argues that the ALJ properly determined that the evidence did not support the existence of a severe impairment before the date last insured. (Id.)

         II. LEGAL STANDARDS

         A. ...


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