United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
FRANK P. GERACI, JR. CHIEF JUDGE.
Anthony Maenza brings this action pursuant to the Social
Security Act seeking review of the final decision of the
Acting Commissioner of Social Security that denied his
application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Act. ECF No. 1. The
Court has jurisdiction over this action under 42 U.S.C.
parties moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). ECF Nos. 11, 12. 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
15, 2011, Maenza protectively applied for DIB with the Social
Security Administration (“the SSA”).
168-69. He alleged disability since January 15, 2011 due to
knee, back, and shoulder issues, depression, and panic
attacks. Tr. 573. On March 5, 2013, Maenza and a vocational
expert (“VE”) appeared and testified before
Administrative Law Judge John P. Costello (“the
ALJ”). Tr. 41-78. On June 24, 2013, the ALJ issued a
decision finding that Maenza was not disabled within the
meaning of the Act. Tr. 12-34. On August 23, 2014, the
Appeals Council denied Maenza's request for review. Tr.
1-4. Maenza appealed to this Court and, on March 25, 2016,
his case was remanded to the Commissioner for further
administrative proceedings. See Maenza v. Colvin,
14-CV-6596-JWF, ECF Nos. 18, 19.
December 12, 2016, Maenza and a VE appeared and testified at
a second hearing before the ALJ. Tr. 1458-1502. On February
13, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Maenza was
not disabled before May 19, 2015, but that he became disabled
on that date when his age category changed and continued to
be disabled through the date of the decision. Tr. 1385-1403.
This became the Commissioner's final decision because the
Appeals Council did not assume jurisdiction of the case.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.984(a) (in cases remanded
from district court for further proceedings, the ALJ's
decision becomes the Commissioner's final decision unless
the Appeals Council assumes jurisdiction). Thereafter, Maenza
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. Id. 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. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(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” ...