United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
MICHAEL A. TELESCA, United States District Judge
Marie Cubiotti (“Plaintiff”), represented by
counsel, brings this action under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act (“the Act”), seeking review of the
final decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“the Commissioner” or “defendant”),
denying her application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”). The Court has jurisdiction over the
matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c).
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.
February 25, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed for SSI,
alleging disability beginning February 9, 2012.
(Administrative Transcript (“T.”) 280). The claim
was initially denied on June 10, 2013, and Plaintiff timely
requested a hearing. (T. 231-33). A hearing was conducted on
February 25, 2014, in Rochester, New York by administrative
law judge (“ALJ”) John P. Costello. (T. 170-215).
Plaintiff appeared with her attorney and testified. An
impartial vocational expert (“VE”) also
issued an unfavorable decision on March 27, 2014 (T. 32-48).
Plaintiff timely requested review of the ALJ's decision
by the Appeals' Council. (T. 12). The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review on September 10,
2014, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. (T. 1-3). Plaintiff instituted a civil action
in this Court, and on July 15, 2015, this Court remanded the
claim for further administrative proceedings. See Cubiotti v.
Colvin, No. 14-cv-6637, Docket No. 10.
remand, the Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's decision
and remanded the matter for further consideration and
development. T. 1107-08. On April 18, 2016, Plaintiff
appeared with her attorney at a second hearing and testified
again before ALJ Costello. Vocational expert Carol McManus
and medical expert Chukwuemeka K. Efobi, M.D. also testified.
T. 1032-82. On May 9, 2016, ALJ Costello issued an
unfavorable decision. T. 1009-30. This action followed.
applied the five-step sequential evaluation promulgated by
the Commissioner for adjudicating disability claims. See 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a). Additionally, because there was
medical evidence of drug addiction or alcoholism, the ALJ
performed the secondary analysis required by 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(2)(c). Pursuant to this secondary analysis, even if a
claimant qualifies for disability benefits under the
five-step analysis, the claimant “shall not be
considered disabled . . . if alcoholism or drug addiction
would . . . be a contributing factor material to the
Commissioner's determination that the individual is
disabled”. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(c); see also 20
C.F.R. §§ 416.935(a), 404.1535(a). In determining
whether a claimant's alcohol or drug abuse is a
“material” factor, an ALJ applies the following
process codified at 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.935,
(1) The key factor we will examine in determining whether
drug addiction or alcoholism is a contributing factor
material to the determination of disability is whether we
would still find you disabled if you stopped using drugs or
(2) In making this determination, we will evaluate which of
your current physical and mental limitations, upon which we
based our current disability determination, would remain if
you stopped using drugs or alcohol and then determine whether
any or all of your remaining limitations would be disabling.
(I) If we determine that your remaining limitations would not
be disabling, we will find that your drug addiction or
alcoholism is a contributing factor material to the
determination of disability.
(ii) If we determine that your remaining limitations are
disabling, you are disabled independent of your drug
addiction or alcoholism and we will find that your drug
addiction or alcoholism is not a contributing factor material
to the determination of disability.
20 C.F.R. §§ 416.935(b), 404.1535(b). “The
claimant bears the burden of proving that drug or alcohol
addiction was not a contributing factor material to the
disability determination.” Newsome v. Astrue,817 F.Supp.2d 111, 126-27 (E.D.N.Y. 2011) (citing White