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Wright v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. New York

December 27, 2017

ETTA L. WRIGHT, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          HON. MICHAEL A. TELESCA, United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Represented by counsel, Etta L. Wright (“Plaintiff”) instituted 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 (“the Commissioner”)[1]denying her applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). The Court has jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c).

         II. Procedural Status

         Plaintiff protectively filed applications for DIB and SSI on December 6, 2011, alleging a disability onset date of June 30, 2011. Her claim was initially denied on April 26, 2012. Plaintiff timely requested a hearing, which was conducted on July 18, 2013, by administrative law judge Robert T. Harvey (“the ALJ”) in Buffalo, New York. Plaintiff appeared with her attorney and testified. Impartial vocational expert Don Schader (“the VE”) also testified. On August 28, 2013, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. (T.24-40).[2] Plaintiff's request for review by the Appeals Council was denied on April 15, 2015, making the ALJ's decision the final determination of the Commissioner. Plaintiff then commenced this action.

         Plaintiff and Defendant have cross-moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court will discuss the record evidence further below, as necessary to the resolution of the parties' contentions. For the reasons set forth herein, the Commissioner's decision is reversed, and Plaintiff's claim is remanded for further administrative proceedings.

         III. The ALJ's Decision

         Initially, the ALJ found that Plaintiff meets the Act's insured status requirements through September 30, 2014. At step one of the sequential evaluation, he found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 30, 2011, the alleged onset date.

         At step two, the ALJ determined that she has the following severe impairments: anxiety disorder, panic disorder with agoraphobia, and depressive disorder. He also determined that her obesity, asthma, hypertension, and history of alcohol abuse were not severe impairments.

         At step three, the ALJ assessed Plaintiff's impairments in light of Listings 12.04 (Affective disorders) and 12.06 (Anxiety-related disorders) and found that, considered singly and in combination, they do not meet or equal either Listing.

         Prior to step four, the ALJ assessed Plaintiff as having the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform all exertional activities consistent with the broad world of work, with the following nonexertional limitations: she has (1) occasional limitation in her ability to understand/remember and carry out detailed instructions; (2) occasional limitation in her ability to interact appropriately with the general public; (3) occasional limitation in her ability to “deal limits [sic] in the ability to make decisions”; and (4) she can work in a low interpersonal-contact work environment.

         At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had past relevant work at a grocery store as a Food Demonstrator (Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”) No. 297.354-010, light, specific vocational preparation (“SVP”) 3) and a Sandwich Maker (DOT No. 317.664-010, medium, SVP 2). Given her RFC, the ALJ found, Plaintiff is unable to perform any of her past relevant work.

         At step five, the ALJ relied on the VE's testimony (T.67-68), that a person of Plaintiff's age, vocational background, education, and RFC would be capable of performing the following representative occupations: (1) Laundry Worker (DOT No. 361.685-018, medium, unskilled, SVP 2, with 570 jobs in the Buffalo/Niagara Falls region and 198, 750 jobs nationally); and (2) Marking Clerk (DOT No. 211.467-030, light, unskilled, SVP 2, with 1, 782, 800 jobs nationally). Accordingly, the ALJ entered a finding of not disabled.

         IV. ...


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