United States District Court, E.D. New York
MARGARET E. HINTON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
Offices of Harry J. Binder and Charles E. Binder, P.C.
Attorneys for the Plaintiff, By: Charles E. Binder, Esq., Of
States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New
York Attorneys for the Defendant, By: Arthur Swerdloff,
Assistant United States Attorney Melanie Dyani Hendry,
Assistant United States Attorney.
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION & ORDER
D. SPATT UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Plaintiff Margaret E. Hinton (the “Plaintiff” or
the “claimant”) commenced this civil action
pursuant to the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405
et seq. (the “Act”), challenging a final
determination by the Defendant, Nancy A. Berryhill (the
“Defendant” or the “Commissioner”),
the acting commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(the “Administration”) at the time of filing,
that she is ineligible to receive Social Security disability
Court notes that the Plaintiff originally named Carolyn W.
Colvin as the Defendant in this action, but by operation of
law, the present Acting Commissioner, Nancy A. Berryhill is
“automatically substituted as a party.”
Fed.R.Civ.P. 25(d); see also 45 U.S.C. §405(g)
(“Any action instituted in accordance with this
subsection shall survive notwithstanding any change in the
person occupying the office of Commissioner of Social
Security or any vacancy in such office.”).
before the Court are the parties' cross motions, pursuant
to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“Fed. R. Civ.
P.” or “Rule”) 12(c) for a judgment on the
pleadings. Although the ALJ found that the Plaintiff was
disabled as of August 3, 2014, the Plaintiff asks this Court
to find that the ALJ erred in failing to find that she was
disabled before that date. For the reasons that follow, the
Plaintiff's motion is denied, and the Commissioner's
motion is granted.
The Relevant Facts
the Plaintiff applied for disability benefits based on a
combination of mental and physical impairments, the Plaintiff
does not dispute the ALJ's findings related to her
physical conditions. Therefore, the Court will only address
those facts that are related to the Plaintiff's mental
The Plaintiff's Testimony
Plaintiff was 47 years old at the time of her alleged onset.
The Plaintiff lives with her husband and one of their adult
daughters. She has a high school diploma and took some
college classes. She last worked in December 2011, as a
dispatch supervisor for United Parcel Service.
Plaintiff drives about once a week, and her daughter usually
drives her to medical appointments. The Plaintiff's
husband handles all of their finances. The Plaintiff bathes
herself, and makes simple meals. However, she only goes
shopping with her daughter, and her daughter does most of the
cooking, laundry, and household cleaning. The Plaintiff
asserted that if she spends more than 30 minutes at the
grocery store, she has a panic attack. Her only hobby is
watching television. She has one friend with whom she
communicates on Facebook.
Plaintiff testified that her depression was “really
bad” at the time, and has affected her ability to
function, sleep without medication, and eat. She has panic
attacks at least five times a day, and they last for fifteen
to forty-five minutes. She cannot concentrate long enough to
follow instructions, and feels overwhelmed “all the
The Relevant Medical Evidence
February 9, 2012, the Plaintiff was admitted to the
Pederson-Krag Center for outpatient mental health treatment.
On February 14, 2012, Dr. Yuan-Fang Chen evaluated the
Plaintiff. The Plaintiff had fair eye contact; an anxious
mood with congruent affect; slow speech; and impaired insight
and judgment. Dr. Chen diagnosed major depressive disorder
and assessed a global assessment of functioning
(“GAF”) of 45. She was seen again on February 29,
2012, but did not respond to phone calls or letters after
that date. She was discharged from the program on March 21,
Dr. Renae Ferguson, the Plaintiff's Treating
Renae Ferguson (“Dr. Ferguson”), who is a
psychiatrist, began treating the Plaintiff on September 13,
2012. The Plaintiff informed Dr. Ferguson that she had been
hospitalized twice earlier in the year for two attempted
suicides. The Plaintiff described symptoms of insomnia,
guilt, fatigue, feelings of hopelessness and helplessness,
weight gain, feelings of worthlessness, and transient
suicidal ideation. She also reported worrying about
“everything.” Dr. Ferguson diagnosed the
Plaintiff with major depressive disorder, recurrent, and
severe, without psychotic features. The Plaintiff's GAF
score was 55. Dr. Ferguson prescribed Trazodone, Klonopin,
follow-up examinations in October 2012, and January 2013, the
Plaintiff told Dr. Ferguson that she was feeling better due
to medication. On October 11, 2012, Dr. Ferguson noted that
the Plaintiff had a brighter affect; good insight and
judgment; and no thought disorder. On January 9, 2013, Dr.