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.

Lee v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. New York

January 25, 2018

STACEY F. LEE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          STACEY F. LEE Pro Se

          FERGUS J. KAISER, ESQ. U.S. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN. OFFICE OF REG'L GEN. COUNSEL - REGION II Counsel for Defendant

          REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

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

         This matter was referred for report and recommendation by the Honorable Judge Suddaby, Chief United States District Judge, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 72.3(d). (Dkt. No. 18.) This case has proceeded in accordance with General Order 18.

         Currently before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by Stacey F. Lee (“Plaintiff”) against the Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or “the Commissioner”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), is the Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. No. 14.) For the reasons set forth below, it is recommended that Defendant's motion be granted.

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff was born in 1970. (T. 64.) She completed the 9th grade. (T. 164.) Generally, Plaintiff's alleged disability consists of neck injury, back injury, hip injury, depression, and tendinitis. (T. 163.) Her alleged disability onset date is January 31, 2009. (T. 64.) Her date last insured is June 30, 2014. (Id.) She previously worked as a retail sales associate. (T. 165.)

         B. Procedural History

         On January 22, 2013, Plaintiff applied for a period of Disability Insurance Benefits (“SSD”) under Title II of the Social Security Act. (T. 71.) Plaintiff's application was initially denied, after which she timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“the ALJ”). On October 2, 2014, Plaintiff appeared before the ALJ, Jennifer Gale Smith. (T. 28-63.) On December 5, 2014, ALJ Smith issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act. (T. 9-27.) On June 16, 2016, the Appeals Council (“AC”) denied Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (T. 4-7.) Thereafter, Plaintiff timely sought judicial review in this Court.

         C. The ALJ's Decision

         Generally, in her decision, the ALJ made the following five findings of fact and conclusions of law. (T. 14-23.) First, the ALJ found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements through June 30, 2014 and Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 31, 2009. (T. 14.) Second, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine, degenerative disc disease of the thoracic spine, degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, history of bilateral upper extremity tendinitis, depression, anxiety, history of ADHD, history of panic attacks, and history of alcohol abuse. (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. 15.) Fourth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work with additional non-exertional limitations. (T. 17.)[1] The ALJ found that Plaintiff could occasionally climb ramps and stairs, kneel, crouch, crawl, balance and stoop. (Id.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff could frequently reach in all directions and occasionally reach overhead, and she could frequently handle, finger, and feel. (Id.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff should not have exposure to cold temperatures during working hours. (Id.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff was limited to simple, routine and repetitive tasks at a low-stress job, defined as occasional decision making, judgment required and changes in the work setting. (Id.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff should only have occasional contact with supervisors, coworkers, and the public. (Id.) Fifth, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was incapable of performing her past relevant work; however, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform. (T. 20-23.)

         II. THE PARTIES' BRIEFING

         Plaintiff did not file a brief in this matter. Defendant makes two arguments in support of her motion for judgment on the pleadings. First, Defendant argues the ALJ's RFC determination was supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 14 at 20-24 [Def.'s Mem. of Law].) Second, and lastly, Defendant argues the ALJ's step five determination was supported by substantial evidence. (Id. at 24-25.)

Plaintiff's brief is the only opportunity for Plaintiff to set forth the errors Plaintiff contends were made by the Commissioner of Social Security that entitle Plaintiff to relief. The failure to file a brief as required by this Order will result in the consideration of this appeal without the benefit of Plaintiff's arguments and may result in a decision heavily influenced by the Commissioner's version of the facts and subsequent dismissal of your appeal.

N.D.N.Y. General Order No. 18 at 4.[2]

         General Order 18 states that the Court will “consider” a case notwithstanding a plaintiff's failure to file a brief, albeit in a way that might be “heavily influenced by the Commissioner's version of the facts.” N.D.N.Y. General Order No. 18 at 4. In a case such as this, where Plaintiff is proceeding pro se, General Order No. 18's promise of a consideration of the merits complies with the special solicitude that the Second Circuit mandates for pro se litigants. Accordingly, the Court has, despite Plaintiff's failure to file a brief, examined the record to determine whether the ALJ applied the correct ...


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.