United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
MICHAEL A. TELESCA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
by counsel, Darnell Damon Kelly (“Plaintiff”) has
brought 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 his application for 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 25, 2012, Plaintiff protectively filed an application
for SSI, alleging disability beginning October 27, 2007.
Administrative Transcript (“T.”) 130-35.
Plaintiff's application was initially denied and he
timely requested a hearing, which was held before
administrative law judge (“ALJ”) David S.
Lewandowski on March 3, 2014. T. 26-47. At the hearing,
Plaintiff amended his alleged onset date to October 25, 2012.
T. 27. On July 25, 2014, the ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision. T. 11-18. Plaintiff's request for review was
denied by the Appeals Council on July 25, 2014, making the
ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. T.
1-7. 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). At step one, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity from October 25, 2012, the application date.
two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the severe
impairments of annular bulging and neural foraminal narrowing
of the lumbar spine. Id. At step 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. Id. In particular,
the ALJ considered Listing 1.04 (disorders of the spine) in
reaching this determination. Id.
to proceeding to step four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff
had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 416.967(a),
with the following additional limitations: can occasionally
operate foot controls; can occasionally perform postural
activities; cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; must
be allowed to change position from sitting to standing every
30-45 minutes. T. 13-14.
four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had no past relevant
work. T. 17. At step five, the ALJ relied on a vocational
expert's testimony to find that there are other jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the national economy that
Plaintiff can perform, including callout operator, telephone
solicitor, and charge account clerk. T. 17-18. The ALJ
accordingly found that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined
in the Act. T. 18.
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, 417
(2d Cir. 2013). “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).
case, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ's RFC finding was
not supported by substantial evidence, because (1) the ALJ
failed to properly evaluate the opinions of treating
neurosurgeon Dr. P. Jeffrey Lewis, and (2) the ALJ
mischaracterized the medical evidence of record. For ...