United States District Court, N.D. New York
LACHMAN, GORTON LAW FIRM Counsel for Plaintiff.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN. OFFICE OF REG'L GEN. COUNSEL -
REGION II Counsel for Defendant
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. 4, 17.).
before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by
Raylene Lewis (“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. 9,
10, 13.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's
motion is denied and Defendant's motion is granted.
was born in 1956. (T. 75.) She completed a four year college.
(Id.) Generally, Plaintiff's alleged disability
consists of carpal tunnel syndrome (“CTS”), a
broken ankle, and knee pain. (T. 218.) Her alleged disability
onset date is March 7, 2013. (T. 75.) Her date last insured
is December 31, 2016. (Id.) She previously worked as
a building-construction inspector. (T. 219.)
April 11, 2013, Plaintiff applied for a period of Disability
Insurance Benefits (“SSD”) under Title II, and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI, of the Social Security Act. (T. 75.) Plaintiff's
applications were initially denied, after which she timely
requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“the ALJ”). On October 2, 2014 and again on
April 9, 2015, Plaintiff appeared before the ALJ, Barry E.
Ryan. (T. 33-48, 49-74.) On June 9, 2015, ALJ Ryan issued a
written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the
Social Security Act. (T. 14-32.) On October 6, 2016 the
Appeals Council (“AC”) denied Plaintiff's
request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. (T. 1-5.) Thereafter,
Plaintiff timely sought judicial review in this Court.
The ALJ's Decision
in his decision, the ALJ made the following five findings of
fact and conclusions of law. (T. 19-27.) First, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements through
December 31, 2016 and Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since March 7, 2013. (T. 19.)
Second, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the severe
impairment of bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome.
(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 medium work except she could occasionally finger with
either hand. (T. 21.) Fifth, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work as
a building-construction inspector. (T. 25.)
THE PARTIES' BRIEFINGS ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION
makes five separate arguments in support of her motion for
judgment on the pleadings. First, Plaintiff argues the ALJ
erred in concluding that she could perform her past relevant
work. (Dkt. No. 9 at 12-14 [Pl.'s Mem. of Law].) Second,
Plaintiff argues the ALJ improperly found that she could
perform medium work. (Id. at 14-23.) Third,
Plaintiff argues the application of “the Grids”
directs a finding of disabled. (Id. at 23.) Fourth,
Plaintiff argues the ALJ failed to consider her limitations
to staying on task and maintaining acceptable levels of
attendance. (Id. at 23-24.) Fifth, and lastly,
Plaintiff argues the ALJ improperly assessed her credibility.
(Id. at 25-26.)
response, Defendant makes two arguments. First, Defendant
argues substantial evidence supported the ALJ's RFC
finding. (Dkt. No. 10 at 7-25 [Def.'s Mem. of Law].)
Second, and lastly, Defendant argues substantial evidence
supported the finding that Plaintiff could perform her past
relevant work. (Id. at 25-27.)
Plaintiff's Reply Brief
filed a reply brief in which she addresses Defendant's
argument that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's
step four determination that Plaintiff could perform her past
relevant work. (Dkt. No. 13 at 1-3 [Pl.'s Reply Mem. of
RELEVANT LEGAL STANDARD
Standard of Review
reviewing a denial of disability benefits may not determine
de novo whether an individual is disabled. See 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3); Wagner v.
Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 906 F.2d 856,
860 (2d Cir. 1990). Rather, the Commissioner's
determination will only be reversed if the correct legal
standards were not applied, or it was not supported by
substantial evidence. See Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d
983, 986 (2d Cir. 1987) (“Where there is a reasonable
basis for doubt whether the ALJ applied correct legal
principles, application of the substantial evidence standard
to uphold a finding of no disability creates an unacceptable
risk that a claimant will be deprived of the right to have
her disability determination made according to the correct
legal principles.”); Grey v. Heckler, 721 F.2d
41, 46 (2d Cir. 1983); Marcus v. Califano, 615 F.2d
23, 27 (2d Cir. 1979).
evidence” is evidence that amounts to “more than
a mere scintilla, ” and has been defined as “such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 1427 (1971).
Where evidence is deemed susceptible to more than one
rational interpretation, the Commissioner's conclusion
must be upheld. See Rutherford v. Schweiker, 685
F.2d 60, 62 (2d Cir. 1982).
determine on appeal whether the ALJ's findings are
supported by substantial evidence, a reviewing court
considers the whole record, examining evidence from both
sides, because an analysis of the substantiality of the
evidence must also include that which detracts from its
weight.” Williams v. Bowen, 859 F.2d 255, 258
(2d Cir. 1988).
supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's
finding must be sustained “even where substantial
evidence may support the plaintiff's position and despite
that the court's independent analysis of the evidence may
differ from the [Commissioner's].” Rosado v.
Sullivan, 805 F.Supp. 147, 153 (S.D.N.Y. 1992). In other
words, this Court must afford the Commissioner's
determination considerable deference, and may not substitute
“its own judgment for that of the [Commissioner], even
if it might justifiably have reached a different result upon
a de novo review.” Valente v. Sec'y of Health
& Human Servs., 733 F.2d 1037, 1041 (2d Cir. 1984).
Standard to ...