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Raymonda C. v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. New York

January 3, 2020

RAYMONDA C., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          LAW OFFICES OF STEVEN R. DOLSON Counsel for Plaintiff STEVEN R. DOLSON, ESQ.

          SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION OFFICE OF GENERAL COUNSEL-REGION I Counsel for Defendant KEVIN MICHAEL PARRINGTON, ESQ. Special Assistant U.S. Attorney

          DECISION AND ORDER

          GLENN T. SUDDABY, CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Currently before the Court, in this action filed by Raymonda C. (“Plaintiff”) against the Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), are (1) Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings, and (2) Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. Nos. 9, 12.) For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings is denied and Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted.

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff was born in 1970, making her 45 years old at her application filing date and 47 years old at the date of the ALJ's decision. Plaintiff reported having an 11th grade education. Plaintiff alleges disability due to degenerative disc disease, lumbar spine impairment, rheumatoid arthritis, right-side nerve damage, left knee impairment, bilateral foot impairment, bilateral hand impairment, severe asthma, and severe depression.

         B. Procedural History

         Plaintiff applied for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income on October 7, 2015. Plaintiff's application was initially denied on January 21, 2016, after which she timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Plaintiff appeared at a video hearing before ALJ John P. Ramos on February 6, 2018. On March 19, 2018, the ALJ issued a written decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act. (T. 15-35.)[1] On January 9, 2019, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (T. 1-3.)

         C. The ALJ's Decision

         Generally, in his decision, the ALJ made the following seven findings of fact and conclusions of law. (T. 18-35.) First, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her application filing date. (T. 18.) Second, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's degenerative disc disease of the thoracic and lumbar spine are severe impairments, noting that these two impairments account for all her general musculoskeletal-related complaints including her knee pain; the ALJ also found that her alleged or documented digestive disorders, respiratory disorders, history of ankle surgery, hand, neck and shoulder impairments, urinary incontinence, vision problems, and mental disorders are not severe impairments. (T 18-21.) Third, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's severe impairments do not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, App. 1 (the “Listings”). (T. 23-24.) The ALJ considered Listings 1.00, 11.00 and 14.00 generally, and 1.02, 1.04 and 14.09 specifically. (Id.) Fourth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform the “full range of sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a).” (T. 24.) Fifth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff is able to perform her past relevant work as a telemarketer as actually and as generally performed. (T. 32-34.) Sixth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff remains able to perform other jobs in the national economy pursuant to the Medical-Vocational Rules for sedentary work. (T. 34-35.) The ALJ therefore concluded that Plaintiff is not disabled.

         D. The Parties' Briefing on Their Motions

         1. Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

         Generally, in her memorandum of law, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in formulating the RFC finding without relying on a competent medical source opinion and failed to adequately develop the record related to the lack of a sufficient medical opinion. (Dkt. No. 9, at 5-12 [Pl.'s Mem. of Law].) More specifically, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ relied on his own lay opinion and assessment of the medical evidence by purportedly affording greater weight to the opinion of the consultative examiner but rejecting most of his opinion. (Id. at 5-7.) Plaintiff also argues that the ALJ ignored the absence of an opinion related to Plaintiff's functioning post-surgery and failed to develop the record by ...


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