United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
MICHAEL A. TELESCA JUDGE
by counsel, Crystal Callahan (“Plaintiff”)
instituted this action pursuant to Title II of the Social
Security Act (“the Act”), seeking review of the
final decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“the Commissioner”) denying her applications for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). The Court
has jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 1383(c).
April 11, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Title II application for a
period of disability and disability insurance benefits,
alleging disability beginning October 25, 2010. The claim was
denied initially on August 23, 2012. Plaintiff filed a
written request for hearing on October 22, 2012. On July 11,
2013, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Joseph L.
Brinkley held a hearing via videoconference. Plaintiff
appeared with her attorney in Rochester, New York, and
testified, as did impartial vocational expert
(“VE”) Stephanie R. Archer.
(T.41-76). On August 23, 2013, ALJ Brinkley issued a
decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. (T.18-35).
This decision became the final decision of the Commissioner
on August 27, 2014, when the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review.
filed an action in this Court, and on September 29, 2015, the
undersigned remanded the claim to the Commissioner for
further proceedings pursuant to the fourth sentence of
section 205(g) of the Act. (T.671-88). On June 15, 2016,
Plaintiff appeared with her attorney for a hearing before ALJ
Connor O'Brien in Rochester, New York. (T.574-636). On
February 16, 2017, ALJ O'Brien issued a decision finding
Plaintiff not disabled. (T.544-72). The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review, making ALJ
O'Brien's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. Plaintiff then timely commenced this action.
reasons discussed below, the Commissioner's decision is
reversed, and the matter is remanded for calculation and
payment of benefits.
The ALJ's Decision
outset of the decision, the ALJ noted that pursuant to the
Court's remand order, the Appeals Council had issued the
following instructions: (1) re-evaluate the treating source
opinions of Dr. Ronald Spurling and Dr. Donovan Holder in
light of the case law and regulatory factors; and (2)
re-assess Plaintiff's mental and physical residual
functional capacity as necessary in light of the
re-evaluations of the treating source opinions.
one of the sequential evaluation, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff last met the Act's insured status requirements
on March 31, 2013, and did not engage in substantial gainful
activity during the period from her the alleged onset date of
October 25, 2010, through her date last insured.
two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following
“severe” impairments: lumbar degenerative disc
disease, obesity, fibromyalgia, affective disorder, and
anxiety disorder. The ALJ found that Plaintiff's
gastroesophageal reflux disease, sleep apnea, polycystic
ovary disease, hypertension, and migraine headaches, when
properly treated, resulted in only minimal, if any,
limitations on her ability to perform work-related
three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments do not
meet or medically equal a listed impairment. The ALJ gave
particular consideration to Listings 1.04A, 1.04B, 1.04C,
12.04, and 12.06.
to proceeding to step four, the ALJ assessed Plaintiff as
having the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(b), except that she can lift and carry 20 pounds
occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; can stand and/or walk
for 4 hours in an 8-hour workday; can sit for 6 hours in an
8-hour workday; needs a sit/stand opinion that allows her to
change position every 60 minutes for up to 5 minutes; cannot
climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds; cannot balance on narrow,
slippery or moving surfaces; cannot stoop to the floor,
kneel, or crawl; occasionally needs a cane when walking; can
occasionally crouch and climb stairs; cannot work overhead;
can tolerate occasional exposure to extreme heat, extreme
cold, wetness, humidity, and airborne irritants; must avoid
hazards such as open water and unprotected heights; can
occasionally drive; requires up to 3 additional, short, less
than 5-minute unscheduled breaks beyond normally scheduled
breaks; can adjust to occasional changes in the work setting;
cannot interact with the public; cannot perform teamwork; and
can work to meet daily goals but cannot maintain an hourly,
machine-driven, assembly-line production rate.
four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has past relevant
work as a receptionist (Dictionary of Occupational Titles
(“DOT”) 237.367-038), which the VE testified was
sedentary and semiskilled work; as a mental retardation aide
(DOT 355.377-018), which the VE testified was medium and
skilled work; and as an EKG technician (DOT 078.362-018),
which the VE testified was light and semiskilled work. The VE
testified that a limitation precluding Plaintiff from any
interaction with the public would ...