United States District Court, W.D. New York
MICHELLE D. DOTSON, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
FRANK P. GERACI, JR. CHIEF JUDGE ERA UNITED STATES DISTRICT
Dotson 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. 9, 14. For
the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED,
the Commissioner's motion is DENIED, and this matter is
REMANDED to the Commissioner for further administrative
9 and September 1, 2013, Dotson protectively applied for DIB
and SSI with the Social Security Administration (“the
SSA”). Tr. 144-50, 163-65. She alleged disability
since October 20, 2012 due to degenerative disc disorder and
herniated discs. Tr. 171. On March 9, 2015, Dotson and a
vocational expert (“VE”) appeared and testified
at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Stephen
Cordovani (“the ALJ”). Tr. 36-82. On June 4,
2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Dotson was not
disabled within the meaning of the Act. Tr. 11-23. On
December 14, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Dotson's
request for review. Tr. 1-7. Thereafter, Dotson 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 ...