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Young v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. New York

March 1, 2018

MARY ANN YOUNG Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          LAW OFFICES OF KENNETH A. HILLER Attorneys for Plaintiff ELIZABETH ANN HUANGS, of Counsel

          JAMES P. KENNEDY ACTING UNITED STATES ATTORNEY Attorney for Defendant KATHRYN SARA POLLACK Special Assistant United States Attorney, of Counsel Federal Centre

          STEPHEN P. CONTE Regional Chief Counsel United States Social Security Administration Office of the General Counsel, of Counsel

          DECISION AND ORDER

          LESLIE G. FOSCHIO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         JURISDICTION

         On May 17, 2016, the parties consented, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), to proceed before the undersigned. (Dkt. No. 14). The court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The matter is presently before the court on the parties' cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, filed by Plaintiff on December 27, 2015 (Dkt. 9), and by Defendant on February 26, 2016 (Dkt. 12). For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's motion is denied and the Commissioner's motion is granted.

         BACKGROUND and FACTS

         Plaintiff Mary Ann Young (“Plaintiff”), brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act (“the Act”), seeking review of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“the Commissioner” or “Defendant”) decision denying her application for disability benefits for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits under Title II of the Act, and Social Security Disability Insurance (“SSDI”) benefits under Title XVI of the Act, together (“disability benefits”). Plaintiff, born on June 27, 1974 (R. 156), alleges that she became disabled on May 18, 2012, when she stopped working as a result of a petite and grand mal seizure disorder, headaches, learning disability, reading comprehension, depression, irritable bowel syndrome (“IBS”), gastric ulcer, and lumbago (lower back pain) (R. 203).

         Plaintiff's application for disability benefits was initially denied by Defendant on October 23, 2012 (R. 84), and, pursuant to Plaintiff's request on November 14, 2012, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Donald T. McDougall (“Judge McDougall”) or (“the ALJ”) on December 6, 2013, in Buffalo, New York, at which Plaintiff, represented by Kenneth A. Hiller, Esq. (“Hiller”) appeared and testified. (R. 36-81). Vocational expert (“VE”) Joe Pierson also appeared and testified. (R. 70-81). The ALJ's decision denying Plaintiff's claim was rendered on May 30, 2014. (R. 16-29). Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals Council, and on June 4, 2015, the ALJ's decision became Defendant's final decision when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R. 1-3). This action followed on July 31, 2015, with Plaintiff alleging that the ALJ erred by failing to find her disabled. (Dkt. No. 1).

         On December 27, 2015, Plaintiff filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings (“Plaintiff's motion”), accompanied by a memorandum of law (Dkt. No. 9) (“Plaintiff's Memorandum”). Defendant filed, on February 26, 2016, Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings (“Defendant's motion”), accompanied by a memorandum of law (Dkt. No. 12) (“Defendant's Memorandum”). Plaintiff filed a reply to Defendant's motion on the pleadings on March 18, 2016 (“Plaintiff's Reply Memorandum”) (Dkt. No. 13). Oral argument was deemed unnecessary.

         DISCUSSION

         A district court may set aside the Commissioner's determination that a claimant is not disabled if the factual findings are not supported by substantial evidence, or the decision is based on legal error. See 42 U.S.C. 405(g); Green-Younger v. Barnhart, 335 F.3d 99, 105-06 (2d Cir. 2003). “Substantial evidence” means ‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate.'” Shaw v. Chater, 221 F.3d 126, 131 (2d Cir. 2000).

         A. Standard and Scope of Judicial Review

         The standard of review for courts reviewing administrative findings regarding disability benefits, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-34 and 1381-85, is whether the administrative law judge's findings are supported by substantial evidence. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). Substantial evidence requires enough evidence that a reasonable person would "accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Consolidated Edison Co. v. N.L.R.B., 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938). When evaluating a claim, the Commissioner must consider "objective medical facts, diagnoses or medical opinions based on these facts, subjective evidence of pain or disability (testified to by the claimant and others), and . . . educational background, age and work experience." Dumas v. Schweiker, 712 F.2d 1545, 1550 (2d Cir. 1983) (quoting Miles v. Harris, 645 F.2d 122, 124 (2d Cir. 1981)). If the opinion of the treating physician is supported by medically acceptable techniques and results from frequent examinations, and the opinion supports the administrative record, the treating physician's opinion will be given controlling weight. Schisler v. Sullivan, 3 F.3d 563, 567 (2d Cir. 1993); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d); 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(d). The Commissioner's final determination will be affirmed, absent legal error, if it ...


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