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Viana v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. New York

November 3, 2017

PAUL P. VIANA, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          For the Plaintiff: CHARLES E. BINDER Law Offices of Harry J. Binder and Charles E. Binder, P.C.

          For the Defendant: BRIDGET M. ROHDE Acting United States Attorney Eastern District of New York By: KATHLEEN A. MAHONEY Assistant U.S. Attorney

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          FREDERIC BLOCK Senior United States District Judge.

         Paul P. Viana, Jr. (“Viana”), who formerly worked as a file clerk at a law firm, seeks review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying his application for disability benefits under the Social Security Act (the “Act”). Both parties move for judgment on the pleadings. For the reasons stated below, the Commissioner's motion is denied, Viana's motion is granted, and the case is remanded for the calculation of benefits.

         I.

         In October 2011, Viana filed an application for Disability Insurance Benefits. He alleged disability, as of June 17, 2011, [1] from back pain. The Social Security Administration (the “SSA”) denied his application, and he had a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). In a decision dated April 10, 2013, the ALJ held that Viana was not disabled. The Appeals Council granted review and, on May 14, 2014, remanded for a new hearing and decision, reasoning that the ALJ had failed to assess the effect of Viana's obesity, to adequately evaluate his ability to perform existing jobs, and to evaluate testimony submitted by Viana's wife.

         On remand, Viana appeared at a second hearing before the same ALJ, and, on December 12, 2014, the ALJ again held that Viana was not disabled. Applying the familiar five-step evaluation process, [2] the ALJ determined that: (1) Viana had not engaged in substantial gainful activity from July 13, 2009, through December 31, 2015, the date he was last insured for disability benefits under the Act; (2) his lumbar disc disease, disc herniation, and lumbar spondylolisthesis[3] constituted severe impairments; but (3) they did not meet or medically equal the criteria of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.

         The ALJ then determined that Viana had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work with certain restrictions. Applying this RFC to the remaining steps, the ALJ determined that (4) Viana was unable to perform his past relevant work as a file clerk, but (5) there were jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy that Viana could perform, namely credit card clerk, surveillance system monitor, and charge account clerk.

         The Appeals Council denied Viana's request for review, rendering final the ALJ's decision to deny benefits. Viana timely sought judicial review.

         II.

         “In reviewing a final decision of the Commissioner, a district court must determine whether the correct legal standards were applied and whether substantial evidence supports the decision.” Butts v. Barnhart, 388 F.3d 377, 384 (2d Cir. 2004); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “[S]ubstantial evidence . . . means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); see also Selian v. Astrue, 708 F.3d 409, 417 (2d Cir. 2013). Viana argues that (1) the ALJ failed to properly weigh the medical opinion evidence; (2) the ALJ failed to properly evaluate Viana's credibility; and (3) the Appeals Council failed to properly consider new medical evidence.

         A. RFC Determination

         The Court agrees that the ALJ failed to properly weigh the medical evidence and failed to properly determine Viana's credibility. As a result, the ALJ's RFC determination was not supported by substantial evidence.

         The ALJ determined that Viana had the RFC to perform sedentary work with the following restrictions: (1) carry 20 pounds frequently and 20-50 pounds occasionally; (2) sit for 2 hours at a time for a total of 8 hours during a workday, with the option to change positions at will; (3) walk 1 hour at a time for 2 hours total during the workday; (4) stand 1 hour at a time for a total of 2 hours during the work day; (5) perform postural activities, such as bending and kneeling, occasionally; and (6) never climb ladders or scaffolds or be exposed to vibrations or extreme heat. See Administrative Record (“AR”) at 56.

         The ALJ's RFC determination was based on Viana's medical history, his hearing testimony, and medical opinions of multiple physicians.

         1. ...


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