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Ferry v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. New York

December 27, 2019

ARTHUR C. FERRY, Plaintiff,
v.
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          HONORABLE MICHAEL A. TELESCA, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Arthur C. Ferry (“Plaintiff”), represented by counsel, brings this action under 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” or “Defendant”), denying his applications for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). Docket No. 1. The Court has jurisdiction over the matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Presently before the Court are the parties' competing motions for judgment on the pleadings, pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. See Docket Nos. 9, 12, 13. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Docket No. 9) is granted, and Defendant's motion (Docket No. 12) is denied. The case is remanded to the Commissioner for further proceedings consistent with this Decision and Order.

         PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         On January 6, 2015, Plaintiff protectively filed applications for DIB and SSI, alleging disability as of September 30, 2009, due to the following conditions: “reflex sympathetic dystrophy of upper limbs, cervicolgia, thoracic outlet syndrome, respiratory insufficiency, shoulder pain, asthma, [and] learning disabled.” Administrative Transcript (“T.”) 12, 95-96, 107-08, 119-20. The claims were initially denied on May 12, 2015. T. 12, 121-28. A video hearing was conducted on February 13, 2017, by administrative law judge (“ALJ”) Julia D. Gibbs. T. 12, 39-87. Plaintiff appeared in Elmira, New York, and the ALJ presided over the hearing from Alexandria, Virginia. Id. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on June 21, 2017. T. 9-22. Plaintiff appealed the decision to the Appeals Council, which denied his request for review on April 26, 2018, making the ALJ's decision the final determination of the Commissioner. T. 1-3. This action followed.

         THE ALJ'S DECISION

         The ALJ applied the five-step sequential evaluation promulgated by the Commissioner for adjudicating disability claims. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a). The ALJ initially found that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through June 30, 2010. T. 14. At step one of the sequential evaluation, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 30, 2009, the alleged onset date. Id.

         At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following “severe” impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spines; right shoulder disorder; degenerative hip disorder; reflex sympathetic dystrophy of the upper limb; learning disorder; and borderline intellectual functioning. T. 14-15.

         At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not singularly or in combination meet or medically equal the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. T. 15. The ALJ specifically considered Listings 1.00 and 12.00 in making this determination. T. 15-16.

         Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work, as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), except: “the work needs to be able to be done either sitting or standing and allows the worker to alternate between the two positions without leaving the work site or stopping work activity. The claimant is limited to frequent handling and fingering with the right upper extremity. Also with the right upper extremity, the claimant is not able to lift above shoulder level or lift more than five pounds. The claimant is limited to work not requiring more than a 6th grade math or reading level.” T. 16.

         At step four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work. T. 20.

         At step five, the ALJ found that, considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform, including the representative occupations of plastic hospital product assembler, small parts assembler, and electronics worker. T. 21-22. The ALJ accordingly found that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Act. T. 22.

         SCOPE OF REVIEW

         A 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) ...


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