United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
HONORABLE RICHARD J. ARCARA JUDGE
Karina Velasquez brings this action pursuant to Titles II and
IV of the Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42
U.S.C. §§ 401-433, 1381-1383f, for review of a
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying
her application for supplemental security income benefits
(“SSI”) under the Act. The Court has jurisdiction
to review a final decision of the Commissioner pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 402(g).
action is before the Court on the parties' cross-motions
for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons stated
below, the Court remands the matter to the Commissioner for
further administrative proceedings consistent with this
Decision and Order.
February 23, 2013, plaintiff Velasquez filed an application
for SSI that alleged she was disabled due to herniated discs
in her lumbar spine and depression. An Administrative Law
Judge, Stephen Cordovani (the “ALJ”), agreed that
plaintiff suffered these severe impairments. The ALJ also
found that plaintiff suffered from severe mental impairments
of a panic disorder without agoraphobia, schizoaffective
disorder, and impulse control disorder. Despite finding the
additional severe mental impairments, the ALJ denied the
application for SSI on July 9, 2013.
plaintiff Velasquez's request, the ALJ held a hearing on
the application on March 5, 2015. In a decision on April 28,
2015, the ALJ found plaintiff had, given her age, education,
and work experience, the residual functional capacity to
perform the sedentary jobs of envelope addresser and painter,
and that she was therefore not disabled.
Velasquez appealed the decision of the ALJ to the Appeals
Council, and the appeal was denied on October 27, 2016. This
action followed. The Court deemed the parties'
cross-motions for judgment submitted on June 13, 2018.
sole issue before the Court is whether the ALJ disregarded an
impairment or impairments that limit plaintiff
Velasquez's capacity to work. The Court assumes the
parties' close familiarity with the record, the prior
proceedings, and the issue before the Court.
the five-step process for assessing plaintiff Velasquez's
claim for disability insurance benefits, see 20
C.F.R. § 416.920, the ALJ consistently found that the
record did not:
support a finding that any . . . impairments, whether
considered singly or in combination with the claimant's
severe impairments, have caused more than minimal limitations
in the claimant's ability to perform basic work
activities which have lasted or been expected to last for at
least 12 consecutive months since the claimant's
Based on the testimony of the vocational expert, I conclude
that, considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, the claimant is
capable of making a successful adjustment to other work that
exists in significant numbers in the national economy. A
finding of “not disabled” is therefore
hearing testimony of the vocational expert upon which the ALJ
relied had assumed, based upon a hypothetical question posed
by the ALJ, that plaintiff would not be absent from work more
than two days per month.
denying plaintiff Velasquez's claim the ALJ did not
clearly address an aspect of plaintiff's mental residual
functional capacity assessment to which the ALJ otherwise
gave “great weight.” That assessment concluded
that plaintiff had a “moderately limited”
“ability to complete a normal . . . workweek without
interruptions from psychologically based symptoms.” The
opinions of both a state agency medical consultant, H.
Tzetzo, and a consultive examiner, Kristina Luna, Psy. D.,