United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
FRANK P. GERACI, JR. Chief Judge
Guerra brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act
("the Act") seeking review of the final decision of
the Acting Commissioner of Social Security that denied her
applications for disability insurance benefits
("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income
("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Act. ECF No.
1. The Court has jurisdiction over this action under 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).
parties moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). ECF Nos. 13, 16. For
the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs motion is GRANTED, the
Commissioner's motion is DENIED, and this matter is
REMANDED to the Commissioner solely for calculation and
payment of benefits.
November 5 and 30, 2010, Guerra applied for DIB and SSI with
the Social Security Administration ("the SSA").
181-95. She alleged disability since May 1, 2009 due to an
ovarian cyst, insomnia, bipolar disorder, panic attacks, and
anxiety. Tr. 210. On April 3, 2012, Guerra and a vocational
expert ("VE") testified via videoconference before
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Mary Joan
McNamara. Tr. 9-67. On June 22, 2012, the ALJ issued a
decision finding that Guerra was not disabled within the
meaning of the Act. Tr. 73-84. On July 23, 2013, the Appeals
Council denied Guerra's request for review. Tr. 1-7.
Guerra appealed to this Court and her case was remanded by
stipulation to the Commissioner for further administrative
proceedings. See Guerra v. Colvin, 13-CV-6506-MWP,
ECF Nos. 13, 14.
September 8, 2016, Guerra and a VE testified at a second
hearing via videoconference before ALJ Hope G. Grunberg. Tr.
728-68. On December 8, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision
finding that Guerra was not disabled within the meaning of
the Act. Tr. 643-61. This became the Commissioner's final
decision because the Appeals Council did not assume
jurisdiction of the case. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.984(a), 416.1484(a) (in cases remanded from district
court for further proceedings, the ALJ's decision becomes
the Commissioner's final decision unless it assumes
jurisdiction). Thereafter, Guerra commenced this action
seeking review of the Commissioner's final decision. ECF
District Court Review
reviewing a final decision of the SSA, this Court is limited
to determining whether the SSA's conclusions were
supported by substantial evidence in the record and were
based on a correct legal standard." Talavera v.
Astrue, 697 F.3d 145, 151 (2d Cir. 2012) (quotation
marks omitted); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
The Act holds that a decision by the Commissioner is
"conclusive" if it is supported by substantial
evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). "Substantial evidence
means more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion." Moron v. Astrue, 569
F.3d 108, 112 (2d Cir. 2009) (quotation marks omitted). It is
not the Court's function to "determine de
novo whether [the claimant] is disabled."
Schaal v. Apfel, 134 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1998)
(quotation marks omitted); see also Wagner v. Sec'y
of Health & Human Servs., 906 F.2d 856, 860 (2d Cir.
1990) (holding that review of the Secretary's decision is
not denovo and that the Secretary's findings are
conclusive if supported by substantial evidence).
must follow a five-step sequential evaluation to determine
whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Act.
See Parker v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 470-71
(1986). At step one, the ALJ must determine whether the
claimant is engaged in substantial gainful work activity.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). If so, the
claimant is not disabled. If not, the ALJ proceeds to step
two and determines whether the claimant has an impairment, or
combination of impairments, that is "severe" within
the meaning of the Act, meaning that it imposes significant
restrictions on the claimant's ability to perform basic
work activities. 20 C.F.R. §404.1520(c). If the claimant
does not have a severe impairment or combination of
impairments, the analysis concludes with a finding of
"not disabled." If the claimant does, the ALJ
continues to step three.
three, the ALJ examines whether a claimant's impairment
meets or medically equals the criteria of a listed impairment
in Appendix 1 of Subpart P of Regulation No. 4 (the
"Listings"). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). If the
impairment meets or medically equals the criteria of a
Listing and meets the durational requirement (20 C.F.R.
§404.1509), the claimant is disabled. If not, the ALJ
determines the claimant's residual functional capacity
("RFC"), which is the ability to perform physical
or mental work activities on a sustained basis,
notwithstanding limitations for the collective impairments.
See 20 C.F.R. § 4O4.l52O(e)-(f).
then proceeds to step four and determines whether the
claimant's RFC permits him or her to perform the
requirements of his or her past relevant work. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(f). If the claimant can perform such
requirements, then he or she is not disabled. If he or she
cannot, the analysis proceeds to the fifth and final step,
wherein the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that
the claimant is not disabled. To do so, the Commissioner must
present evidence to demonstrate that the claimant
"retains a residual functional capacity to perform
alternative substantial gainful work which exists in the
national economy" in light of ...