United States District Court, W.D. New York
OFFICES OF KENNETH R. HILLER Attorneys for Plaintiff TIMOTHY
HILLER, of Counsel
P. KENNEDY ACTING UNITED STATES ATTORNEY Attorney for
M. FISHMAN Assistant United States Attorney, of Counsel
STEPHEN P. CONTE Regional Chief Counsel United States Social
Security Administration Office of the General Counsel, of
DECISION AND ORDER
G. FOSCHIO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
17, 2016, the parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(c), to proceed before the undersigned. (Dkt. No. 14). The
court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). The matter is presently before the court on
the parties' cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings
pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, filed by Plaintiff on December 10, 2015 (Dkt. 9),
and by Defendant on March 1, 2016 (Dkt 12). For the reasons
discussed below, Plaintiff's motion is denied and the
Commissioner's motion is granted.
Jessica Teska (“Plaintiff “), brings this action
pursuant to the Social Security Act (“the Act”),
seeking review of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“the Commissioner” or “defendant”)
decision denying her application for disability benefits for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits
under Title II of the Act, and Social Security Disability
Insurance (“SSDI”) benefits under Title XVI of
the Act, together (“disability benefits”).
Plaintiff, born on May 27, 1992, alleges that she became
disabled on May 27, 2010, from stress resulting after a
breakup with her boyfriend and family issues. (R. 45).
filed an application for Social Security Child's
Insurance benefits and Supplementary Security Income
(“SSI”) benefits on October 4, 2012 (R. 142-48),
that was initially denied by Defendant on December 28, 2012,
and, pursuant to Plaintiff's request filed on January 29,
2013 (R. 95-97), a hearing was held before Administrative Law
Judge Geitel Reich (“Reich” or “the
ALJ”), on August 13, 2013, in New York, New York. (R.
41-55). Plaintiff, represented by Marie Carrubba, Esq.
(“Carrubba”), appeared and testified at the
hearing. The ALJ's decision denying Plaintiff's claim
was rendered on October 2, 2013. (R. 18-37). Plaintiff
requested review by the Appeals Council, and the ALJ's
decision became Defendant's final decision when the
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on
February 27, 2015. (R. 1-4). This action followed on April
27, 2015, with Plaintiff alleging that the ALJ erred by
failing to find her disabled. (Doc. No. 1).
December 10, 2015, Plaintiff filed a motion for judgment on
the pleadings (“Plaintiff's motion”),
accompanied by a memorandum of law (Doc. No. 9)
(“Plaintiff's Memorandum”). Defendant filed,
on March 1, 2016, Defendant's motion for judgment on the
pleadings (“Defendant's motion”), accompanied
by a memorandum of law (Doc. No. 12) (“Defendant's
Memorandum”). Plaintiff filed a reply to
Defendant's motion on the pleadings on March 30, 2016,
(“Plaintiff's Reply Memorandum”) (Doc. No.
13). Oral argument was deemed unnecessary.
district court may set aside the Commissioner's
determination that a claimant is not disabled if the factual
findings are not supported by substantial evidence, or the
decision is based on legal error. See 42 U.S.C.
405(g); 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.'” Shaw v.
Chater, 221 F.3d 126, 131 (2d Cir. 2000). At step one of
the sequential evaluation, see 20 C.F.R. ' '
404.1520, 416.920, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 27, 2010,
Plaintiff's alleged onset date of disability. (R.18). At
step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffered from the
severe impairments of bipolar disorder, mood disorder, panic
disorder with agoraphobia, personality disorder with
borderline features, and asthma. (R. 20). At step
three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not
meet or medically equal the criteria for disability under
Appendix 1 of 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P (“The Listing
of Impairments”), specifically 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404,
Subpt. P, Appendix 1, § 12.04 (“§
12.04") (Affective disorders), 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt.
P, Appendix 1, ' 12.06 (“' 12.06”)
(Anxiety related disorders), and 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P,
Appendix 1, § 14.00 (“§ 14.00") (Immune
system disorders). (R. 25). Plaintiff does not contest the
ALJ's findings at steps one through three of the
disability review process.
ALJ finds a disability claimant does not have a severe
medically determinable physical or mental impairment, 20
C.F.R. § § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), that significantly
limits the claimant's physical and mental ability to do
work activities, Berry, 675 F.2d at 467, and the
claimant is not able, based solely on medical evidence, to
meet the criteria established for an impairment listed under
Appendix 1, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show
that despite the claimant's severe impairment, the
claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform
alternative work, 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), and
prove that substantial gainful work exists that the claimant
is able to perform in light of the claimant's physical
capabilities, age, education, experience, and training.
Parker, 626 F.2d 225 at 231. To make such a
determination, the Commissioner must first show that the
applicant's impairment or impairments are such that they
nevertheless permit certain basic work activities essential
for other employment opportunities. Decker v.
Harris, 647 F.2d 291, 294 (2d Cir. 1981). Specifically,
the Commissioner must demonstrate by substantial evidence the
applicant's "residual functional capacity" with
regard to the applicant's strength and "exertional
capabilities." Id. An individual's
exertional capability refers to the performance of
"sedentary, " ...