United States District Court, W.D. New York
HUGH B. SCOTT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court are the parties' respective motions for
judgment on the pleadings (Docket Nos. 9 (plaintiff), 11
(defendant Commissioner)). Having considered the
Administrative Record, filed as Docket No. 7 (references
noted as “[R.___]”), and the papers of both
sides, this Court reaches the following decision.
an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to
review the final determination of the Commissioner of Social
Security that plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is
not entitled to disability insurance benefits. The parties
consented to proceed before a Magistrate Judge (Docket No.
13, Order of Oct. 4, 2019).
plaintiff (“Timothy Gadd” or
“plaintiff”) filed an application for disability
insurance benefits on March 18, 2014 [R. 23]. That
application was denied initially. The plaintiff appeared
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), who
considered the case de novo and concluded, in a
written decision dated October 11, 2017, that the plaintiff
was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security
Act. The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the
Commissioner on September 28, 2018, when the Appeals Council
denied plaintiff's request for review.
commenced this action on November 27, 2018 (Docket No. 1).
The parties moved for judgment on the pleadings (Docket Nos.
9, 11), and plaintiff filed a notice of declining to file a
reply (Docket No. 12). Upon further consideration, this Court
then determined that the motions could be decided on the
a 45-year-old on the onset date with a [high school]
education, last worked as a heavy equipment operator, later
equated by the vocational expert as the DOT title of
construction-equipment mechanic (skilled medium word) [R.
31-32]. Plaintiff contends that he was disabled as of the
onset date of June 15, 2013 [R. 23]. He had no substantial
gainful activity since the June 15, 2013, onset date [R. 25].
Plaintiff claims the following impairments deemed severe by
the ALJ: status post left hip replacement and lumbar
degenerative disc disease [R. 26]. Plaintiff also claims to
suffer from hypertension, but nothing in record showed that
it had more than minimal impact on plaintiff's ability to
perform basic work activities [R. 26]. He also claims
impairment chronic sinus infections, but it was deemed
incidental, thus non-severe [R. 26].
AND VOCATIONAL EVIDENCE
was a heavy equipment operator who developed arthritis in his
back, hips, knee, ankles. On October 2013, plaintiff had left
hip replacement, herniated disc, remote history of broken
left ankle, left foot swelling, chronic sinus infections and
high blood pressure. [R. 27, 178.] On plaintiff's
Function Report of July 14, 2014, he claimed difficulty with
lifting, standing, walking, sitting, climbing stairs,
kneeling, and squatting [R. 27, 190-91]. Plaintiff reported
he could clean, do laundry, household repairs, limited lawn
mowing (for 10-15 minutes, then needing help), and prepare
simple meals [R. 27, 187-88]. At the time of the hearing,
plaintiff currently worked standing at a bench filling clutch
bags for 2-3 hours a day, 5 days a week [R. 28]. This job
involved no lifting, had minimal walking and minimal sitting,
and he would need to lie down for 3 hours after work [R. 28].
He described his pain generally as 6-7 out of 10, but 7-8
after working [R. 28]. Nurse Practitioner Kathleen Snyder
noted in June 2016 that plaintiff was “currently
working” [R. 302]. Plaintiff testified that he believed
that he could not work a full 8-hour day [R. 57].
issue here is the opinion of nurse practitioner Snyder from
February 15, 2017 [R. 349-52], and the ALJ's
consideration of that opinion [R. 31]. Ms. Snyder concluded
that plaintiff could not perform even sedentary work [R.
349-52], that he had a limited range of motion of lumbar
spine, decreased strength with stiffness and swelling in
ankles, plaintiff can sit for only 2 hours a workday and
could never lift more than 10 pounds and never twist, stoop,
crouch, or climb ladders [R. 349-50, 31]. The ALJ gave little
weight to this opinion, however, finding it was inconsistent
with record as a whole including plaintiff's treatment
notes from Snyder's practice (e.g., Aug. 30, 2016 [R.
299], normal musculoskeletal findings save low back
tenderness, June 22, 2016, showing mild tenderness over left
foot and limping gait after recent drop on that foot [R. 296,
Pembroke Family Medicine, by Snyder, June 22, 2016, 31]). The
ALJ further found that Ms. Snyder's opinion was
inconsistent with plaintiff's daily activities, such as
lawn mowing and snow shoveling [R. 31, 30].
found that plaintiff had a residual functional capacity to
perform light work, but he needed to be allowed to sit or
stand at will; he could perform no crawling but he could
occasionally bend, stoop, kneel, or crouch, but he should not
work at unprotected heights or around dangerous machinery or
processes [R. 27].
found that plaintiff was unable to perform past relevant work
as a construction equipment operator [R. 32]. With this
capacity and the inability to perform plaintiff's past
work, the vocational expert opined that a hypothetical
claimant like plaintiff was able to perform such occupations
as a photocopy machine operator (light exertion work),
classifier, laundry (light), or cashier II (light). With an
added sit/stand option, the number of jobs in each of these
occupations is reduced by one-half but a ...