United States District Court, W.D. New York
CHANIKKA M. DAVIS-PAYNE, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
MICHAEL A. TELESCA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
by counsel, Chanikka M. Davis-Payne (“Plaintiff”)
instituted this action pursuant to Title XVI of the Social
Security Act (“the Act”), seeking review of the
final decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“the Commissioner”) denying her application for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). The Court
has jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 1383(c).
15, 2012, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI, which was
denied at the initial level. At Plaintiff's request, a
hearing was conducted by administrative law judge Robert T.
Harvey (“the ALJ”) on February 11, 2014.
Plaintiff appeared with her attorney testified at the
hearing, as did vocational expert Jennifer Dizon (“the
VE”). The ALJ considered the claim de novo and
issued an unfavorable decision on March 20, 2014.
(T.46-64). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review on March 31, 2015, making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. This action
the Court are the parties' cross-motions for judgment on
the pleadings. The Court will discuss the record evidence
further below, as necessary to the resolution of the
parties' contentions. For the reasons discussed below,
the Commissioner's decision is reversed, and the matter
is remanded for further administrative proceedings.
followed the five-step sequential evaluation for determining
whether an individual is disabled, see 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(a). At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
has not engaged in substantial gainful activity
(“SGA”) since the application date (May 15,
2012), which is also her amended onset date. (T.51).
two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following
severe impairments: status post anterior cervical discectomy
and fusion (“ACDF”) at ¶ 3-5, migraine
headaches, cervical radiculopathy, and discogenic lumbar
spine. (T.51). The ALJ found that Plaintiff's bilateral
hip pain and obesity do not cause significant work-related
functional limitations and therefore are not severe. (T.52).
three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20
C.F.R. §§ 416.920(d), 416.925, 416.926). (T.52).
The ALJ gave particular consideration to Listings 1.03
(Reconstructive surgery or surgical arthrodesis of a major
weight-bearing joint, with inability to ambulate
effectively), 1.04A (Disorders of the spine with evidence of,
e.g., nerve root compression), and 11.00
proceeded to assess Plaintiff as having the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work
as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b), except that she
has occasional limitations in climbing, stooping, squatting,
kneeling, and balancing; occasional limitation in the ability
to reach in all directions; occasional limitation in pushing
and/or pulling with the upper extremities; no ability to
climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds; and no ability to crawl.
In addition, she cannot work in areas where she would be
exposed to cold. (T.52).
four, the ALJ noted that Plaintiff was 34 years-old on the
application date. She obtained her general equivalency degree
(“GED”) in 1997 (T.217), and thus had at least a
high school education. She previously worked sporadically in
an assembly position factory, a representative in a teletech
call center, a hairdresser, and a housekeeper in a hotel
(T.217), but her earnings were below SGA during the 15 years
prior to her SSI application. (T.51). The ALJ accordingly
found that she did not did not have any past relevant work.
five, the ALJ relied on the VE's testimony (T.94-95) that
a person of Plaintiff's age, and with her education, work
experience, and RFC, can perform representative occupations
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy,
including mail room clerk (Dictionary of Occupational Titles
(“DOT”) No. 209.687-026, light, unskilled, of
which there are 102, 410 positions in the national economy)
and ticket seller (DOT No. 211.467-030, light, unskilled, of
which there are 106, 860 jobs in the national economy).
(T.59-60). Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not
been under a disability as defined in the act since the
application date. (T.60).