United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
HONORABLE MICHAEL A. TELESCA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Johnson (“Plaintiff”), represented by counsel,
brings this action pursuant to Title XVI of the Social
Security Act (“the Act”), seeking review of the
final decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“Defendant” or “the Commissioner”)
denying her application for supplemental security income
(“SSI”). The Court has jurisdiction over the
matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c).
Presently before the Court are the parties' competing
motions for judgement on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c)
of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set
forth below, Plaintiff's motion is granted to the extent
that the matter is remanded for further administrative
proceedings and Defendant's motion is denied.
10, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed for SSI, alleging
disability beginning August 31, 2012. Administrative
Transcript (“T.”) 130-35. The claim was initially
denied on July 17, 2013, and Plaintiff timely requested a
hearing. T. 80-88. A hearing was conducted on June 18, 2015,
in Buffalo, New York by administrative law judge
(“ALJ”) Stephen Cordovani. T. 31-69. Plaintiff
appeared with her attorney and testified. An impartial
vocational expert (“VE”) also testified.
issued an unfavorable decision on September 17, 2015. T.
12-28. Plaintiff timely requested review of the ALJ's
decision by the Appeals' Council. T. 29-30. On November
17, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision
of the Commissioner. T. 1-6. Plaintiff then timely commenced
applied the five-step sequential evaluation promulgated by
the Commissioner for adjudicating disability claims.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a). At step one of the
sequential evaluation, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since the application
two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the
“severe” impairment of degenerative disc disease
of the lumbar spine with foraminal narrowing. Id.
The ALJ also determined that Plaintiff's medically
determinable impairments of glaucoma, right hip contusion,
and hypertension were non-severe and created no significant
work-related functional limitations. Id.
three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1. The ALJ specifically considered
Listing 1.04. T. 18.
proceeding to step four, the ALJ assessed Plaintiff as having
the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 416.967(b),
with the following limitations: no bending to the floor; all
work performed at waist level or higher; occasional ramps and
stairs; no kneeling, crouching, crawling, or ladders, ropes,
or scaffolds; alternate sitting and standing at will.
four, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had no past relevant
work. T. 22. At step five, the ALJ relied on the VE's
testimony to find that, taking into account Plaintiff's
age, education, work experience, and RFC, there are jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the national economy that
Plaintiff can perform, including the representative
occupations of document preparer, printed circuit board
assembly screener, and finisher. T. 23. The ALJ accordingly
found that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Act.
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. § 405(g); see also Green-Younger v.
Barnhart, 335 F.3d 99, 105-06 (2d Cir. 2003). The
district court must accept the Commissioner's findings of
fact, provided that such findings are supported by
“substantial evidence” in the record.
See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (the Commissioner's
findings “as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive”). “Substantial
evidence means ‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.'” Shaw v. Chater, 221 F.3d
126, 131 (2d Cir. 2000) (quotation omitted). The reviewing
court nevertheless must scrutinize the whole record and
examine evidence that supports or detracts from both sides.
Tejada v. Apfel, 167 F.3d 770, 774 (2d Cir. 1998)