United States District Court, W.D. New York
MARK P. BUDNIEWSKI, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
FRANK P. GERACI, JR. CHIEF JUDGE
Budniewski brings this action pursuant to the Social Security
Act (“the Act”) seeking review of the final
decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security that
denied his applications for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Act. ECF
No. 1. The Court has jurisdiction over this action under 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).
parties moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). ECF Nos. 12, 16. For
the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED,
the Commissioner's motion is DENIED, and this matter is
REMANDED for further proceedings.
March 21 and 29, 2012, Budniewski protectively applied for
DIB and SSI with the Social Security Administration
(“the SSA”). Tr. 241-54. He alleged disability
since March 1, 2009 due to hip pain and arthritis, migraines,
a learning disability, and dyslexia. Tr. 274. Budniewski
later amended his alleged disability onset date to August 8,
2008. Tr. 18, 360. On June 21, 2013 and June 13 and August
22, 2014, Budniewski and a vocational expert
(“VE”) appeared and testified at hearings before
Administrative Law Judge Marilyn D. Zahm (“the
ALJ”). Tr. 47-131, 1178-1220. On September 15, 2014,
the ALJ issued a decision finding that Budniewski was not
disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr. 18-38. On May 5,
2016, the Appeals Council denied Budniewski's request for
review. Tr. 1-4. Thereafter, Budniewski commenced this action
seeking review of the Commissioner's final decision. ECF
District Court Review
reviewing a final decision of the SSA, this Court is limited
to determining whether the SSA's conclusions were
supported by substantial evidence in the record and were
based on a correct legal standard.” Talavera v.
Astrue, 697 F.3d 145, 151 (2d Cir. 2012) (quotation
marks omitted); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
The Act holds that a decision by the Commissioner is
“conclusive” if it is supported by substantial
evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “Substantial
evidence means more than a mere scintilla. It means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Moran v.
Astrue, 569 F.3d 108, 112 (2d Cir. 2009) (quotation
marks omitted). It is not the Court's function to
“determine de novo whether [the claimant] is
disabled.” Schaal v. Apfel, 134 F.3d 496, 501
(2d Cir. 1998) (quotation marks omitted); see also Wagner
v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 906 F.2d 856,
860 (2d Cir. 1990) (holding that review of the
Secretary's decision is not de novo and that the
Secretary's findings are conclusive if supported by
must follow a five-step sequential evaluation to determine
whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Act.
See Parker v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 470-71
(1986). At step one, the ALJ must determine whether the
claimant is engaged in substantial gainful work activity.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). If so, the
claimant is not disabled. If not, the ALJ proceeds to step
two and determines whether the claimant has an impairment, or
combination of impairments, that is “severe”
within the meaning of the Act, meaning that it imposes
significant restrictions on the claimant's ability to
perform basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c).
If the claimant does not have a severe impairment or
combination of impairments, the analysis concludes with a
finding of “not disabled.” If the claimant does,
the ALJ continues to step three.
three, the ALJ examines whether a claimant's impairment
meets or medically equals the criteria of a listed impairment
in Appendix 1 of Subpart P of Regulation No. 4 (the
“Listings”). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). If the
impairment meets or medically equals the criteria of a
Listing and meets the durational requirement (20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1509), the claimant is disabled. If not, the ALJ
determines the claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”), which is the ability to perform physical
or mental work activities on a sustained basis,
notwithstanding limitations for the collective impairments.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e)-(f).
then proceeds to step four and determines whether the
claimant's RFC permits him or her to perform the
requirements of his or her past relevant work. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(f). If the claimant can perform such
requirements, then he or she is not disabled. If he or she
cannot, the analysis proceeds to the fifth and final step,
wherein the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that
the claimant is not disabled. To do so, the Commissioner must
present evidence to demonstrate that the claimant
“retains a residual functional capacity to perform
alternative substantial gainful work which exists in the
national economy” in light ...