United States District Court, N.D. New York
K. K., Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
SCIORTIN LAW FIRM Counsel for Plaintiff
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN. OFFICE OF REG'L GEN. COUNSEL -
REGION II Counsel for Defendant
ELSTON, ESQ., DAVID B. MYERS, ESQ.
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
William B. Mitchell Carter, U.S. Magistrate Judge.
matter was referred to me, for all proceedings and entry of a
final judgment, pursuant to the Social Security Pilot
Program, N.D.N.Y. General Order No. 18, and in accordance
with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Fed.R.Civ.P.
73, N.D.N.Y. Local Rule 73.1 and the consent of the parties.
(Dkt. Nos. 4, 15.).
before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by K.
K. (“Plaintiff”) against the Commissioner of
Social Security (“Defendant” or “the
Commissioner”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§
405(g) and 1383(c)(3), are the parties' cross-motions for
judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. Nos. 9, 12.) For the reasons
set forth below, Plaintiff's motion is denied and
Defendant's motion is granted.
was born in 1966. (T. 87.) She completed two years of
college. (T. 238.) Generally, Plaintiff's alleged
disability consists of low back pain, damaged nerves,
fractured right hip, left shoulder pain, post-traumatic
stress disorder (“PTSD”), attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”), anxiety, memory
loss, and asthma. (T. 88.) Her alleged disability onset date
is February 16, 2012. (T. 87.) Her date last insured is
September 30, 2015. (Id.) She previously worked as a
coder, in food service, and in retail. (T. 239.)
26, 2013, Plaintiff applied for a period of Disability
Insurance Benefits (“SSD”) under Title II of the
Social Security Act. (T. 87.) Plaintiff's application was
initially denied, after which she timely requested a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (“the ALJ”).
On March 24, 2015 and September 8, 2015, Plaintiff appeared
before the ALJ, John P. Ramos. (T. 25-62, 63-86.) On
September 18, 2015, ALJ Ramos issued a written decision
finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act.
(T. 7-24.) On February 15, 2017, the Appeals Council
(“AC”) denied Plaintiff's request for review,
rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. (T. 1-4.) Thereafter, Plaintiff timely sought
judicial review in this Court.
The ALJ's Decision
in his decision, the ALJ made the following five findings of
fact and conclusions of law. (T. 12-19.) First, the ALJ found
Plaintiff met the insured status requirements through
September 30, 2015 and Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since February 16, 2012. (T.
12.) Second, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the severe
impairments of degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine,
status post neck surgery, asthma, depressive disorder, and
obsessive-compulsive disorder. (Id.) Third, the ALJ
found Plaintiff did not have an impairment that meets or
medically equals one of the listed impairments located in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix. 1. (T. 13.) Fourth, the
ALJ found Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform:
sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. [§]
404.1567(a) and she is able to sit, stand or walk for
up to one hour at a time. She can only occasionally reach
overhead with either upper extremity but otherwise has no
reaching limitation. She should avoid exposure to
concentrated respiratory irritants or extremes of temperature
and humidity. She should be able to change positions at will,
but she does not need to leave the work area to do so.
[Plaintiff] retains the ability to understand and follow
simple instructions and directions; perform simple tasks with
supervision and independently; maintain
attention/concentration for simple tasks; regularly attend to
a routine and maintain a schedule; relate to and interact
with others to the extent necessary to carry out simple
tasks, but she should avoid work requiring more complex
interaction or joint efforts with other coworkers to achieve
work goals. [Plaintiff] can handle reasonable levels of
simple, work-related stress, in that she can make decisions
directly related to the performance of simple work and handle
usual workplace changes and interactions associated with
15.) Fifth, the ALJ determined Plaintiff was incapable of
performing her past relevant work; however, there were jobs
that existed in significant numbers in the national economy
Plaintiff could perform. (T. 18-19.)
THE PARTIES' BRIEFINGS ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION
makes three arguments in support of her motion for judgment
on the pleadings. First, Plaintiff argues the ALJ erred in
affording more weight to a medical expert's opinion over
treating source opinions. (Dkt. No. 9 at 8-12 [Pl.'s Mem.
of Law].) Second, Plaintiff argues the ALJ failed to properly
evaluate and assess Plaintiff's credibility.
(Id. at 12-17.) Third, and lastly, Plaintiff argues
the ALJ erred in failing to credit an answer by the
vocational expert that resulted in no work Plaintiff could
perform. (Id. at 17-18.)
response, Defendant makes three arguments. First, Defendant
argues substantial evidence supports the ALJ's RFC
finding. (Dkt. No. 12 at 9-20 [Def.'s Mem. of Law].)
Second, Defendant argues the ALJ properly considered
Plaintiff's credibility in assessing her RFC.
(Id. at 20-23.) Third, and lastly, Defendant argues
the ALJ properly denied Plaintiff's claim at step five.
(Id. at 24-25.)
RELEVANT LEGAL STANDARD