Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lewis v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. New York

January 16, 2018

RAYLENE LEWIS, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          LACHMAN, GORTON LAW FIRM Counsel for Plaintiff.

          U.S. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN. OFFICE OF REG'L GEN. COUNSEL - REGION II Counsel for Defendant

          PETER GORTON, ESQ.

          SERGEI ADEN, ESQ.

          MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

          William B. Mitchell Carter, U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         This 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.).

         Currently 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.

         1. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff 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.)

         B. Procedural History

         On 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.

         C. The ALJ's Decision

         Generally, 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.)[1] Fifth, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work as a building-construction inspector. (T. 25.)

         II. THE PARTIES' BRIEFINGS ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION

         A. Plaintiff's Arguments

         Plaintiff 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.)

         B. Defendant's Arguments

         In 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.)

         C. Plaintiff's Reply Brief

         Plaintiff 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 Law].)

         III. RELEVANT LEGAL STANDARD

         A. Standard of Review

         A court 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).

         “Substantial 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).

         “To 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).

         If 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).

         D. Standard to ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.