United States District Court, W.D. New York
DEANNA F. WILL, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
MICHAEL A. TELESCA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
f. Will (“Plaintiff”), represented by counsel,
brings this action pursuant to Title 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 Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). The Court has jurisdiction over the
matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c).
January 15, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed an application
for SSI, alleging disability beginning January 29, 2012. This
claim was denied initially on May 17, 2013. Plaintiff filed a
written request for a hearing, which was conducted via
videoconference by Administrative Law Judge Jerome Hornblass
(“the ALJ”) on November 6, 2013. Plaintiff
appeared with her attorney at the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”) office in Jamestown, New
York, and testified. The ALJ did not call any witnesses. On
February 25, 2014, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision.
(T.17-33). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review on May 20, 2015, making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff
then timely commenced this action.
one of the sequential evaluation, the ALJ fund that Plaintiff
had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January
15, 2013, the application date. (T.22). At step two, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
back disorder, asthma, depression, and anxiety disorder.
three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's impairments
did not meet or medically equal any listed impairment found
in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the
“Listings”). (T.22-23). In making that finding,
the ALJ specifically considered Listings 1.04 (disorders of
the spine), 3.03 (asthma), and 12.04 (affective disorders).
then assessed Plaintiff as having the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined
in the regulations, except that she was limited to simple
tasks that did not require working in environments containing
respiratory irritants. (T.24-28).
four, the ALJ found Plaintiff had no past relevant work.
(T.28). At step five, the ALJ determined that, pursuant to
Medical-Vocational Rule 202.20, Plaintiff could perform jobs
existing in significant numbers in the national economy.
(T.28). Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not
been under a disability as defined in the Act during the
district court may set aside the Commissioner's
determination that a claimant is not disabled only if the
factual findings are not supported by “substantial
evidence” or if the decision is based on legal error.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also 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”). “Substantial evidence
means ‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'”
Shaw v. Chater, 221 F.3d 126, 131 (2d Cir. 2000)
(quotation omitted). 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 deferential standard of review for
substantial evidence does not apply to the Commissioner's
conclusions of law.” Byam v. Barnhart, 336
F.3d 172, 179 (2d Cir. 2003) (citing Townley v.
Heckler, 748 F.2d 109, 112 (2d Cir. 1984)).
Internal Inconsistency in ALJ's Decision Requires Remand