United States District Court, W.D. New York
JEAN M. SHELLEY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
MICHAEL A. TELESCA, United States District Judge
by counsel, Jean M. Shelley (“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 Acting Commissioner of Social
Security (“Defendant” or “the
Commissioner”) denying her application for disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental
security income (“SSI”). For the reasons set
forth below, the Commissioner's decision is reversed, and
the matter is remanded for further administrative
October 3, 2012, Plaintiff protectively filed applications
for DIB and SSI alleging disability beginning January 21,
2008, due to lumbar disc problems, migraines, high
cholesterol, complications from a possible stroke, anxiety,
and gastroesophageal reflux disease (“GERD”).
(T.54-79, 150-57). Plaintiff's applications were denied
on May 9, 2013, and she timely requested a hearing before an
administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (T.94-95). ALJ
Marie Greener held a hearing on September 15, 2014.
(T.33-53). On November 28, 2014, ALJ Greener issued a
decision in which she found Plaintiff was not disabled as
defined in the Act. (T.17-31). On March 25, 2016, the Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
(T.1-6). This timely action followed.
before the Court are the parties' competing 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 is granted, and the
Commissioner's motion is denied.
The ALJ's Decision
the ALJ found that Plaintiff met the insured status
requirements of the Act through September 30, 2014. (T.220).
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 January 21, 2008, the alleged onset
date. (Id.). At step two, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had the severe impairments of cervical spinal and
lumbar spinal degenerative disc disease with herniated
nucleus pulposus. (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 a listed impairment. (T.23-24).
proceeding to step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
to perform the full range of sedentary work as defined in 20
CFR §§ 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a), with the ability
to lift/carry 10 pounds occasionally and less than 10 pounds
frequently; to sit 6 hours in a routine 8-hour workday; and
to stand/walk 2 hours total in a routine 8-hour workday.
four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform any
past relevant work. (T.26). At step five, the ALJ found that,
considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience,
and RFC, that jobs exist in significant numbers in the
national economy that Plaintiff can perform. (T.26).
Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled.
Scope of Review
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). “The deferential
standard of review for substantial evidence does not apply to
the Commissioner's conclusions of law.” Byam v.
Barnhart, 336 F.3d 172, 179 (2d Cir. 2003) (citing
Townley v. Heckler, 748 F.2d 109, 112 (2d Cir.
makes the following arguments in support of her motion for
judgment on the pleadings: (1) the ALJ failed to properly
consider Plaintiff's migraines and headaches at step two;
(2) the ALJ's RFC determination is not supported by
substantial evidence because (a) the ALJ failed to correctly
weigh treating physician Dr. Alves' opinion, and failed
to reconcile certain limitations in consultative physician
Dr. Persaud's ...