United States District Court, N.D. New York
SARAH L. SMILEY, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
OF CHRISTINE SCOFIELD Counsel for Plaintiff CHRISTINE A.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN. OFFICE OF REG'L GEN. COUNSEL -
REGION II Counsel for Defendant SUSAN J. REISS, ESQ.
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
William B. Mitchell Carter, U.S. Magistrate Judge
matter was referred to me, for all proceedings and entry of a
final judgment, pursuant to the Social Security Pilot
Program, N.D.N.Y. General Order No. 18, and in accordance
with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Fed.R.Civ.P.
73, N.D.N.Y. Local Rule 73.1 and the consent of the parties.
(Dkt. Nos. 2, 21.).
before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by
Sarah L. Smiley (“Plaintiff”) against the
Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or
“the Commissioner”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), are the parties'
cross- motions for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. Nos. 15,
18.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion
is denied and Defendant's motion is granted.
was born in 1969. (T. 88.) She completed high school. (T.
93.) Generally, Plaintiff's alleged disability consists
of anxiety, high blood pressure, “fluid around heart,
” high cholesterol, and asthma. (T. 92.) Her alleged
disability onset date is May 31, 2012. (T. 28.) She has no
past relevant work.
October 15, 2012, Plaintiff applied for a period of
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act. (T. 88.) Plaintiff's
application was initially denied, after which she timely
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“the ALJ”). On October 15, 2014, Plaintiff
appeared before the ALJ, Elizabeth J. Koennecke. (T.
562-590.) On January 20, 2015, ALJ Koennecke issued a written
decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social
Security Act. (T. 14-26.) On August 16, 2016, the Appeals
Council (“AC”) denied Plaintiff's request for
review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision
of the Commissioner. (T. 8-12.) Thereafter, Plaintiff timely
sought judicial review in this Court.
The ALJ's Decision
in her decision, the ALJ made the following five findings of
fact and conclusions of law. (T. 19-26.) First, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since October 15, 2012. (T. 19.) Second, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of
degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, mild
degenerative joint disease of the shoulder, and a mental
impairment (variously characterized). (Id.) Third,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment that
meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments
located in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix. 1. (T.
20.) Fourth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform the
exertional demands of light work with additional limitations.
(T. 22.) The ALJ determined that Plaintiff could
occasionally kneel, squat, bend, and reach. (Id.)
The ALJ determined Plaintiff could not work at a job that
required holding her head in a fixed position. (Id.)
The ALJ determined that Plaintiff could understand and follow
simple instructions and directions; perform simple and some
complex tasks with supervision and independently; maintain
attention/concentration for simple and some complex tasks;
regularly attend to a routine and maintain a schedule; relate
to and interact with others to the extent necessary to carry
out simple tasks but should avoid work requiring more complex
interaction or joint effort to achieve work goals; and handle
reasonable levels of simple work-related stress in that she
could make occasional simple decisions directly related to
the completion of tasks in a stable, unchanging work
environment. (Id.) Fifth, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff had no past relevant work; however, there were jobs
that existed in significant numbers in the national economy
Plaintiff could perform. (T. 25-26.)
THE PARTIES' BRIEFINGS ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION
essentially argues that the ALJ erred in her RFC
determination because she failed to account for
Plaintiff's inability to maintain attention,
concentration and/or attendance and failed to account for her
respiratory limitations. (Dkt. No. 15 at 3-5 [Pl.'s Mem.
of Law].) Plaintiff also appears to argue that she was
prejudiced at the hearing and AC level because she proceeded
pro se and did not know how to “address”
the post hearing vocational expert testimony. (Id.)