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Cintron v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. New York

January 23, 2018





         Mariluz Cintron (“Plaintiff”), represented by counsel, brings this action pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act, challenging the final decision of Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“the Commissioner”) denying her application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).


         Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on April 18, 2013, alleging disability since February 4, 2009, primarily due to post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), depression, and anxiety. Plaintiff's application was denied, and she requested a hearing. Administrative law judge William M. Manico (“the ALJ”) held a videoconference hearing on December 9, 2014, which Plaintiff asked to postpone in order to obtain representation. It was rescheduled for April 1, 2015, and Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified, as did impartial vocational expert Mark Pinti (“the VE”). (T.37-63). In a decision dated April 17, 2015, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. (T.14-36).[1] Plaintiff's request for review by the Appeals Council was denied on November 10, 2016, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. This timely action followed.

         Plaintiff and Defendant have cross-moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The Court will discuss the record evidence further below, as necessary to the resolution of the parties' contentions. For the reasons set forth herein, the Commissioner's decision is reversed, and the matter is remanded for calculation and payment of benefits.


         At the first step of the sequential analysis, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in any substantial gainful activity since April 18, 2013, the application date. (T.22). At the second step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: PTSD, anxiety, and depression. (T.22-23). The ALJ found that her alleged impulse control disorder and hallucinations/delusions are not medically determinable impairments diagnosed by an acceptable medical source, [2] and accordingly are not severe.

         At the third step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (T.23-25). In particular, the ALJ considered Listing 12.04, Listing 12.06A, and Listing 12.06B.

         The ALJ then assessed Plaintiff as having the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform the full range of work at all exertional levels, with the following non-exertional limitations: She can perform unskilled work with simple instructions where interactions with others are routine, superficial and related to the work performed; her interactions with others were limited to no more than approximately one third of the work day; she needs a regular work break approximately every two hours; and she cannot do fast-paced assembly work. (T.25).

         At the fourth step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had no past relevant work. (T.32).

         At the fifth step, the ALJ relied on the VE's testimony to find that, based on Plaintiff's age (37 years-old), education (at least a high school diploma), work experience, and RFC, there are jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform. (T.32-33). Specifically, the VE identified the jobs of warehouse worker (Dictionary of Occupational Titles (“DOT”) #922.687-058), of which there are 250, 000 jobs nationwide and 1, 500 jobs statewide; and cleaner (DOT #323.687-014), of which there are 300, 000 jobs nationwide and 6, 000 jobs statewide. Therefore, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Act. (T.33).


         When considering a claimant's challenge to the decision of the Commissioner denying benefits under the Act, the district court is limited to determining whether the Commissioner's findings were supported by substantial record evidence and whether the Commissioner employed the proper legal standards. Green-Younger v. Barnhart, 335 F.3d 99, 105-06 (2d Cir. 2003). The district court must accept the Commissioner's findings of fact, provided that such findings are supported by “substantial evidence” in the record. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (the Commissioner's findings “as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive”). The reviewing court nevertheless must scrutinize the whole record and examine evidence that supports or detracts from both sides. Tejada v. Apfel, 167 F.3d 770, 774 (2d Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). “The ...

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