United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
Hayes 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
application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Act. ECF No. 1. The
Court has jurisdiction over this action under 42 U.S.C.
parties moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). ECF Nos. 10, 12. For
the reasons that follow, the Commissioner's motion is
GRANTED and Plaintiff's motion is DENIED.
26, 2014, Hayes protectively applied for DIB with the Social
Security Administration (“the SSA”). Tr. 178-79.
She alleged disability since October 1, 2010, due to a
stroke, Raynaud's syndrome, acclimatization problems,
acute sinusitis, lateral epicondylitis, De Quervain's
tenosynovitis, a left rotator cuff injury, and arm, hand, and
sinus surgeries. Tr. 79, 219-20. Hayes later amended her
alleged onset date to September 25, 2013. Tr. 265. On
December 29, 2015, Hayes and a vocational expert
(“VE”) testified at a hearing via videoconference
before Administrative Law Judge Yvette N. Diamond (“the
ALJ”). Tr. 14-54. On January 27, 2016, the ALJ issued a
decision finding that Hayes was not disabled within the
meaning of the Act. Tr. 79-89. On April 19, 2017, the Appeals
Council denied Hayes's request for review. Tr. 1-4.
Thereafter, Hayes commenced this action seeking review of the
Commissioner's final decision. ECF No. 1.
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.” Moran 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 de novo and that the
Secretary's findings are conclusive if supported by
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. § 404.1520(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 his or her age,
education, and work experience. See Rosa v.
Callahan, 168 F.3d 72, 77 (2d Cir. 1999) (quotation
marks omitted); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1560(c).
ALJ's decision analyzed Hayes's claim for benefits
under the process described above. At step one, the ALJ found
that Hayes had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since the amended alleged onset date of September 25, 2013
through her date last insured of December 31, 2013. Tr. 81.
At step two, the ALJ found that Hayes has the following
severe impairments: degenerative joint disease of the left
shoulder, bilateral De Quervain's tendonitis, chronic
sinusitis, patent foramen ovale, and residual effects of a
transient ischemic attack. Tr. 81-83. At step three, the ALJ
found that these impairments, alone or in combination, did
not meet or medically equal any Listings impairment. Tr.
the ALJ determined that Hayes retains the RFC to perform
light work with additional limitations. Tr. 84-87.
Specifically, the ALJ found that Hayes can lift and carry 20
pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; can stand,
walk, and sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday; can
occasionally push and pull with the upper extremities; can
frequently reach in most directions but cannot reach
overhead; can frequently handle and occasionally finger with
the right upper extremely and can occasionally handle and
finger with the left upper extremity; and cannot have
concentrated exposure to respiratory irritants. Tr. 84. At
step four, the ALJ relied on the VE's testimony and found
that Hayes cannot perform her past relevant work. Tr. 88. At
step five, the ALJ relied on the VE's testimony and found
that Hayes can adjust to other work that exists in
significant No. in the national economy given her RFC, age,
education, and work experience. Tr. 88-89. Specifically, the
VE testified that Hayes can work as a furniture rental clerk,
children's attendant, and fruit distributor. Tr. 89.
Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Hayes was not
“disabled” under the Act. Id.
contends that remand is required because the ALJ failed to
consider all of her impairments at step two of the disability
analysis and improperly weighed the medical opinions. ECF No.
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