United States District Court, W.D. New York
ALEXANDER W. BURKARD, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
ELIZABETH A. WOLFORD JUDGE
by counsel, Plaintiff Alexander Burkard ("Plaintiff)
brings this action pursuant to Title II of the Social
Security Act (the "Act"), seeking review of the
final decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(the "Commissioner," or "Defendant")
denying his application for disability insurance benefits
("DIB") and supplemental security income
("SSI"). (Dkt. 1). This 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. (Dkt. 10; Dkt. 12). For the
reasons discussed below, Plaintiff s motion (Dkt. 10) is
granted in part, the Commissioner's motion (Dkt. 12) is
denied, and this case is remanded to the Commissioner for
further administrative proceedings consistent with this
Decision and Order.
protectively filed an application for DIB on December 16,
2013, and an application for SSI on December 20, 2013. (Dkt.
7 at 20). In both applications, Plaintiff alleged
disability beginning on December 1, 2012. (Id.).
Plaintiffs applications were initially denied on April 11,
2014. (Id.). At Plaintiffs request, a hearing was
held before administrative law judge ("ALJ")
Stephen Cordovani on April 18, 2016. (Id. at 35-64).
On May 23, 2016, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision.
(Id. at 17-29). The Appeals Council denied
Plaintiffs request for review on February 3, 2017, making the
ALJ's determination the Commissioner's final
decision. (Id. at 5-7). This action followed.
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).
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 substantial evidence).
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), 416.920(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.
Id. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(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"). Id. §§ 404.1520(d),
416.920(d). If the impairment meets or medically equals the
criteria of a Listing and meets the durational requirement
(id. §§ 404.1509, 416.909), 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 Id. §§
then proceeds to step four and determines whether the
claimant's RFC permits the claimant to perform the
requirements of his or her past relevant work. Id.
§§ 404.1520(f), 416.920(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. Id.
§§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g). 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 ...