United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
HONORABLE MICHAEL A. TELESCA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Lynn Marie Caci (“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 her 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,
Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Docket
No. 12) is granted, and Plaintiff's motion (Docket No. 9)
November 19, 2014, Plaintiff protectively filed applications
for DIB and SSI, alleging disability as of May 10, 2011, due
to “[l]eft and right knee issues (no cartilage in
knees) [and] [d]epression.” Administrative Transcript
(“T.”) 10, 80, 89, 98-99. The claims were
initially denied on April 9, 2015. T. 10, 104-09. At
Plaintiff's request, a hearing was conducted on April 7,
2017, by administrative law judge (“ALJ”) Kenneth
Theurer. T. 10, 26-60. At her hearing, Plaintiff amended her
alleged onset date of disability to June 18, 2013.
Id. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on May
18, 2017. T. 7-19. Plaintiff appealed the decision to the
Appeals Council, which denied her request for review on May
15, 2018, making the ALJ's decision the final
determination of the Commissioner. T. 1-3. This action
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 September 30, 2019. T. 12. At
step one of the sequential evaluation, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since June 18, 2013, the amended alleged onset date.
two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following
“severe” impairments: a bilateral knee issue,
thyroiditis, and obesity. T. 12-13. The ALJ further found
that Plaintiff's medically determinable impairment of
depression was non-severe. T. 13-14.
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. 14. The ALJ specifically
considered Listing 1.02 (major dysfunction of a joint) in
making this determination. Id.
proceeding to step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
to perform sedentary work, as defined in 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a), except: “she
can only lift ten pounds occasionally. The claimant can never
kneel, crawl or climb ladders/ropes/scaffolds; but she can
rarely (more than never, less than occasional) climb
stairs/ramps; and she can occasionally balance, stoop and
crouch. She requires the use of a cane to ambulate; however,
she retains the ability to carry a small object, such as a
file, in her free hand. The claimant may alternate from a
seated to a standing position - or vice versa - two times per
hour, for no more than five minutes, while remaining on task.
The claimant is limited to simple, routine and repetitive
tasks, in a work environment free of fast-paced production
requirements, involving only simple work-related decisions,
with few, if any, workplace changes.” T. 15.
four, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was unable to perform
any past relevant work. T. 17.
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 ticket taker, document preparer, and order
clerk, food and beverage. T. 17-18. The ALJ accordingly found
that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Act. T.
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)