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Ramos v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. New York

November 15, 2017

RICHARD B. RAMOS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          HON. MICHAEL A. TELESCA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         INTRODUCTION

         Represented by counsel, Richard B. Ramos (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”), seeking review of the final decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or “the Commissioner”)[1] denying his application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c).

         PROCEDURAL STATUS

         On December 5, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Title II application for DIB, alleging a disability onset date of April 25, 2011. The claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. Plaintiff requested a hearing, which was held via videoconference before administrative law judge Angela Miranda (“the ALJ”) on May 22, 2014. Plaintiff appeared with his attorney in Rochester, New York, and testified, as did impartial vocational expert Linda Ebersold (“the VE”). On November 15, 2014, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. (T.18-31).[2]

         Plaintiff's request for review was denied by the Appeals Council on June 16, 2016, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff then timely commenced this action.

         Presently 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, the Commissioner's decision is reversed and the matter remanded solely for calculation and payment of benefits.

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         The ALJ applied the five-step sequential evaluation promulgated by the Commissioner for adjudicating disability claims. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a).

         At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2016. The ALJ found that Plaintiff's earnings record supported a finding that he had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 25, 2011, [3] the alleged onset date.

         At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following “severe” impairments: osteoarthritis of the left knee and residual effect of surgically corrected torn meniscus, degenerative disc disease (“DDD”) of the lumbar spine, obesity, anxiety, and depression. The ALJ found that Plaintiff's hypertension, edema, and sinus tachycardia are well-controlled by medication and not “severe.” As to Plaintiff's alleged shoulder dysfunction, resulting from a fall, the ALJ found that it is not a medically determinable impairment, giving the absence of objective medical evidence to diagnose the condition and lack of treatment to address it.

         At step three, the ALJ considered Plaintiff's impairments and found that, singly or in combination, they do not meet or medically equal the severity of a listed impairment. In particular, the ALJ considered Listing 1.02, and found that the record failed to show that Plaintiff's osteoarthritis of the left knee has caused gross anatomical deformity resulting in an inability to ambulate effectively. The ALJ also considered Listing 1.04, and found that the record failed to show that Plaintiff's DDD of the lumbar spine causes evidence of nerve root compression, spinal arachnoiditis or pseudoclaudication. The ALJ also found that Plaintiff's mental impairments do not meet or equal Listings 12.04 and 12.06 because Plaintiff only has “mild” restrictions in activities of daily living and social functioning; “moderate” limitations in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; and has experienced no episodes of decompensation.

         Prior to proceeding to step four, the ALJ noted that Plaintiff is 6'2" and 320 pounds, which yields a body mass index of 41.1 and places him in the “obese” range. The ALJ accordingly factored Plaintiff's obesity into the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) assessment. The ALJ then determined that Plaintiff has the RFC to occasionally lift and carry 10 pounds and to frequently lift and carry less than 10 pounds; stand and/or walk for 2 hours in an 8-hour workday; sit for 6-8 hours in an 8-hour workday and may require the ability to change positions while at work, but this can be met at normal break or meal periods or without leaving the workstation; perform unlimited pushing and pulling up to his capacity for lifting and carrying; occasionally operate foot controls; occasionally climb stairs and ramps; occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; frequently balance; understand, remember and carry out simple, routine tasks; use common sense understanding to carry out instructions, to deal with several concrete variables in standardized situations, and to do these tasks consistently with the demands of a normal workday schedule; appropriately interact with coworkers, supervisors, and the general public; identify and avoid normal workplace hazards; and adapt to routine changes in the workplace.

         At step four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was 41 years-old on the onset date, with a limited education and the ability to communicate in English. In light of his RFC, the ALJ found, Plaintiff cannot perform his past relevant work as a building maintenance repairer (Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”) 899.381-010, medium work but actually performed as heavy work, with a specific vocational and preparation (“SVP”) of 7); and a door keeper (DOT 329.683-010, medium work, SVP of 2).

         At step five, the ALJ relied on the VE's testimony to find that there are other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy and state-wide that Plaintiff can perform, including food and beverage clerk (DOT 209.567-014, sedentary work, SVP of 2); surveillance systems monitor (DOT 379.367-010, sedentary work, SVP of 2); and addresser (DOT ...


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