United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
MICHAEL A. TELESCA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
by counsel, Veronica Ortiz (“Plaintiff”) has
brought this action pursuant to Titles II and XVI of the
Social Security Act (“the Act”), seeking review
of the final decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social
Security (“Defendant” or “the
Commissioner”) denying her applications for disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental
security income (“SSI”). This Court has
jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). Presently before the Court are the parties'
competing motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to
Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the
reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is denied and
Defendant's motion is granted.
October 27, 2011, Plaintiff protectively filed a Title II
application for DIB and a Title XVI application for SSI,
alleging disability beginning December 31, 2010, due to a
seizure disorder, lupus, high blood pressure, depression, and
anxiety. Administrative Transcript (“T.”) 88-97,
187. Plaintiff's application was initially denied and she
timely requested a hearing, which was held before
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) Stanley Moskal,
Jr. on June 3, 2013. T. 98-119, 128-138. On February 26,
2014, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. T. 60-83.
Plaintiff's request for review was denied by the Appeals
Council on July 17, 2015, making the ALJ's decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. T. 1-5. Plaintiff then
timely commenced this action.
THE ALJ'S DECISION
applied the five-step sequential evaluation promulgated by
the Commissioner for adjudicating disability claims.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a). Initially, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff last met the insured status requirements
of the Act on December 31, 2010. T. 62. At step one, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity from December 31, 2010, the alleged onset date.
split the remainder of his decision into two separate
analyses. First, at step two, the ALJ determined that, from
the alleged onset date through September 6, 2011, Plaintiff
had the medically determinable impairments of high blood
pressure and a history of asthma. Id. The ALJ
further found that, from the alleged onset date through
September 6, 2011, Plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that significantly limited her
ability to perform basic work-related activities for 12
consecutive months and that she therefore did not have a
severe impairment or combination of impairments. Id.
The ALJ thus concluded that, through her date last insured,
Plaintiff had not been disabled as defined in the Act, and
was not entitled to DIB. T. 67.
second analysis, the ALJ considered whether Plaintiff was
entitled to SSI for the period from September 7, 2011 to the
date of the ALJ's decision. At step two, the ALJ
determined that, commencing September 7, 2011, Plaintiff had
the severe impairments of complex partial epilepsy and
systemic lupus erythematosus (“SLE”). T. 67. The
ALJ further determined that Plaintiff had the non-severe
impairments of high blood pressure, history of asthma,
headaches, affective disorder, and generalized anxiety
disorder. T. 67-71.
three, the ALJ considered Plaintiff's impairments and
found that, singly or in combination, they did not meet or
medically equal the severity of a listed impairment. T. 78.
Prior to proceeding to step four, the ALJ determined that,
through the date last insured, Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform the full
range of medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 416.967(c), with
the following additional limitations: can lift and carry up
to 25 pounds frequently and 50 pounds occasionally; can stand
and walk about six hours out of an eight-hour workday; can
sit about six hours out of an eight-hour workday; can push
and pull up to 25 pounds frequently and 50 pounds
occasionally; can occasionally climb stairs and ramps,
balance, kneel, crouch, and crawl; can never climb ladders or
scaffolds; has no visual or communicative limitations; should
avoid working at unprotected heights or around hazards,
extreme cold, extreme heat, wetness, humidity, fumes, gases,
smoke, or other respiratory irritants. T. 79.
four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had no past relevant
work. T. 82. At step five, the ALJ relied on the
Medical-Vocational Guidelines, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 2, to find that there are other jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy and state-wide
that Plaintiff can perform. T. 82-83. The ALJ accordingly
found that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Act.
Scope of Review
considering a claimant's challenge to the decision of the
Commissioner denying benefits under the Act, a 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”). Although the reviewing court 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), “[i]f there is substantial evidence to
support the [Commissioner's] determination, it must be
upheld.” Selian v. Astrue, 708 F.3d 409, ...