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Robinson v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. New York

July 26, 2018

JAMES EDWIN ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          HON. MICHAEL A. TELESCA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         I. Introduction

         Represented by counsel, plaintiff James Edwin Robinson (“Plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act (the “Act”), seeking review of the final decision of defendant the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (the “Commissioner” or “Defendant”) denying his application for supplemental security income (“SSI”). The Court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Presently before the Court are the parties' cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's motion is denied and the Commissioner's motion is granted.

         II. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on December 28, 2012, alleging disability as of December 1, 2012 due to back injury, knee injury, high blood pressure, and asthma. Administrative Transcript (“T.”) 58. Plaintiff's application was initially denied. T. 71-74. At Plaintiff's request, a hearing was held before administrative law judge (“ALJ”) William Weir on September 22, 2015, at which Plaintiff appeared with his representative. T. 34-56. On March 12, 2015, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. T. 17-33. On June 16, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's determination the Commissioner's final decision. T. 8-14. This action followed.

         III. The ALJ's Decision

         In determining whether Plaintiff was disabled, the ALJ applied the five-step sequential evaluation set forth in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. At step one of the five-step sequential evaluation, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 28, 2012, the date of his application. T. 22.

         At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of hypertension, major depressive disorder, substance abuse in apparent current remission, obesity, and degenerative joint disease of the knee. Id. The ALJ further found that Plaintiff's claimed back problems and asthma were not severe impairments. Id.

         At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of any listed impairment. Id. The ALJ particularly considered Listings 1.02, 4.00H1, 12.04, and 12.09 in reaching this conclusion. T. 22-23.

         Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b), with the following additional limitations: must have the option to sit or stand every half-hour; cannot work in an environment with pulmonary irritants such as gases, dust, or fumes above OSHA standards; and can perform the ordinary tasks associated with unskilled work. T. 24.

         At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had no past relevant work. T. 29. At step five, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a vocational expert (“VE”) to conclude that, considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, there were jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform, including the representative occupations of stock checker and cafeteria attendant. T. 29-30. Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Act. T. 30.

         IV. Discussion

         A. Scope of Review

         A district court may set aside the Commissioner's determination that a claimant is not disabled only if the factual findings are not supported by “substantial evidence” or if the decision is based on legal error. 42 U.S.C. § ...


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