United States District Court, W.D. New York
WAYNE D. SNYDER, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
Elizabeth A. Wolford United States District Judge.
by counsel, plaintiff Wayne D. Snyder ("Plaintiff)
brings this action pursuant to Titles II and XVI of the
Social Security Act (the "Act"), seeking review of
the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(the "Commissioner") denying his applications for
disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and
supplemental security income ("SSI"). (Dkt. 1).
This Court has jurisdiction over the 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. 13; Dkt. 16), and Plaintiffs reply (Dkt. 17).
For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiffs motion (Dkt. 13)
is granted to the extent that the matter is remanded for
further administrative proceedings consistent with this
Decision and Order, and the Commissioner's motion (Dkt.
16) is denied.
protectively filed his applications for DIB and SSI on April
23, 2015. (Dkt. 6 at 18). In his applications, Plaintiff alleged
disability beginning October 24, 2013, due to spinal cysts,
"right wrist fracture residuals," chronic upper
back pain, headaches, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar
spine, spinal stenosis, depression, and anxiety.
(Id. at 18, 241). Plaintiffs applications were
initially denied on October 8, 2015. (Id. at
105-109). At Plaintiffs request, a hearing was held on
December 1, 2016, before administrative law judge
("ALJ") Julia D. Gibbs. (Id. at 35-63,
121-28). On June 21, 2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision. (Id. at 15-34). Plaintiff requested
Appeals Council review; his request was denied on April 19,
2018, making the ALJ's determination the
Commissioner's final decision. (Id. at 6-9).
This action followed.
District Court Review
reviewing a final decision of the [Social Security
Administration ("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 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 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 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). However, "[f]he deferential
standard of review for substantial evidence does not apply to
the Commissioner's conclusions of law." Byam v.
Bamhart, 336 F.3d 172, 179 (2d Cir. 2003) (citing
Townley v. Heckler, 748 F.2d 109, 112 (2d Cir.
follows 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 determines 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, in 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
have at least one severe impairment, the ALJ continues to
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 the claimant's
age, education, and work experience. Rosa v.
Callahan, 168 F.3d 72, 77 (2d Cir. 1999) (quotation
omitted); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1560(c).