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. 10 (plaintiff), 21
(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 and/or
Supplemental Security Income benefits. The parties consented
to proceed before a Magistrate Judge (Docket No. 23, Order of
Oct. 4, 2019).
plaintiff (“Victoria Lewandowski” or
“plaintiff”) filed an application for disability
insurance benefits on February 12, 2014 [R. 15], and
Supplemental Security Income benefits on March 3, 2014 [R.
15]. 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 August 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 June 27, 2018, when the
Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review.
commenced this action on August 21, 2018 (Docket No. 1). The
parties moved for judgment on the pleadings (Docket Nos. 10,
21), and plaintiff duly replied (Docket No. 22). Upon further
consideration, this Court then determined that the motions
could be decided on the papers.
a 25-year-old with a bachelor of arts degree, has no past
relevant work [R. 34-35]. Plaintiff contends that she was
disabled as of the onset date of August 31, 2002 [R. 15].
Plaintiff claims the following impairments deemed severe by
the ALJ: cerebellar vascular accident (“CVA”),
transient ischemic attack (“TIA”), migraine
headaches, obesity, bilateral knee degenerative joint
disease, right shoulder impingement syndrome, degenerative
disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine, asthma,
allergic rhinitis, a depressive disorder, an anxiety
disorder, a cognitive disorder [R. 18]. As for
plaintiff's obesity, the ALJ found that plaintiff was
5'7” tall and weighed 282 to 300 pounds [R. 24, 54
(plaintiff's testimony, Jan. 10, 2017)], earlier weighing
236 pounds when examined by consultative examiner Dr.
Hongbiao Liu in May 2014 [R. 442]. Plaintiff also claims a
litany of other ailments (such as a history of strokes and
concussions, GERD, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, colitis,
hypertension) that the ALJ did not find were sufficiently
documented in the record to reach the level of severe
impairment [R. 18].
AND VOCATIONAL EVIDENCE
Two for Listings 12.04 or 12.06, the ALJ evaluated whether
“Paragraph B” criteria were met, looking at the
four areas of functioning. The ALJ found that plaintiff had
moderate limitations in each of the four areas. [R. 21-23.]
2014, plaintiff was examined by consultative examiner, Dr.
Liu [R. 440, 29]. After noting plaintiff's various
surgeries and medical conditions up to that date [R. 440-41],
Dr. Liu noted that plaintiff did not appear in acute
distress, had normal gait, intact dexterity, and normal range
of motion, full strength in upper extremities [R. 442-43].
Dr. Liu diagnosed plaintiff with anxiety and depression;
history of stroke; history of asthma; history of
fibromyalgia; chronic neck and low back pain; gastric reflux
disease; and obesity [R. 443]. Dr. Liu opined that plaintiff
has mild to moderate limitation for prolonged walking,
bending, and kneeling [R. 443], stating that plaintiff should
avoid dust and other irritants due to asthma [R. 443]. The
ALJ later gave “very significant weight” to Dr.
Liu's opinion due to his expertise, and the relative
consistency of his opinion with the longitudinal medical
record including plaintiff's good response to consistent
medical treatment [R. 32].
initial hearing on January 10, 2017, plaintiff testified that
she was limited by back issues, knee pain, hand and wrist
pain, coordination problems, migraine headaches, bipolar
disorder, depression, anxiety, and asthma [R. 24, 56-57,
60-62]. She had a stroke in 2003 that affected her left side
[R. 24, 58]. She had a second stroke in 2004 [R. 24, 59]. She
claimed that she could not work because she was unable to
stand or sit for long periods of time [R. 24, 60]. She had a
series of surgeries on her wrists, elbow, and left knee
starting in 2010 through 2013 [R. 25].
emphasized plaintiff's service as an assistant leader for