United States District Court, W.D. New York
MARILYN D. AGOSTINO, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
DECISION AND ORDER
P. GERACI, JR. CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
Marilyn D. Agostino brings this action pursuant to the Social
Security Act seeking review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security that denied her application
for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under
Title II of the Act. ECF No. 1. The Court has jurisdiction
over this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
parties moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). ECF Nos. 7, 10. For
the reasons that follow, the Commissioner's motion is
GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, Agostino's motion is
GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN PART, and this matter is
REMANDED to the Commissioner for further administrative
October 2014, Agostino applied for DIB with the Social
Security Administration (“the SSA”).
98. She alleged disability since December 2013 due to back
injury, neck injury, whiplash, migraine headaches,
sensitivity to light and sound, and difficulty walking. Tr.
98-99. On August 4, 2017, Administrative Law Judge Elizabeth
Ebner (“the ALJ”) held a hearing. Tr. 44. On
September 28, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding that
Agostino is not disabled. Tr. 15-34. On October 4, 2018, the
Appeals Council denied Agostino's request for review. Tr.
1-4. This action seeks review of the Commissioner's final
decision. ECF No. 1.
District Court Review
reviewing a final decision of the SSA, this Court is limited
to determining whether the SSA's conclusions were
supported by substantial evidence in the record and were
based on a correct legal standard.” Talavera v.
Astrue, 697 F.3d 145, 151 (2d Cir. 2012) (quotation
marks omitted); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
The Act holds that a decision by the Commissioner is
“conclusive” if it is supported by substantial
evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “Substantial
evidence means more than a mere scintilla. It means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.” Moran v.
Astrue, 569 F.3d 108, 112 (2d Cir. 2009) (quotation
marks omitted). It is not the Court's function to
“determine de novo whether [the claimant] is
disabled.” Schaal v. Apfel, 134 F.3d 496, 501
(2d Cir. 1998) (quotation marks omitted); see also Wagner
v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 906 F.2d 856,
860 (2d Cir. 1990) (holding that review of the
Secretary's decision is not de novo and that the
Secretary's findings are conclusive if supported by
must follow a five-step sequential evaluation to determine
whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Act.
See Parker v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 470-71
(1986). At step one, the ALJ must determine whether the
claimant is engaged in substantial gainful work activity.
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). If so, the
claimant is not disabled. If not, the ALJ proceeds to step
two and determines whether the claimant has an impairment, or
combination of impairments, that is “severe”
under the Act, meaning that it imposes significant
restrictions on the claimant's ability to perform basic
work activities. Id. § 404.1520(c). If the
claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination of
impairments, the analysis concludes with a finding of
“not disabled.” If the claimant does, the ALJ
continues to step three.
three, the ALJ examines whether a claimant's impairment
meets or medically equals the criteria of a listed impairment
in Appendix 1 of Subpart P of Regulation No. 4 (the
“Listings”). Id. § 404.1520(d). If
the impairment meets or medically equals the criteria of a
Listing and meets the durational requirement, the claimant is
disabled. If not, the ALJ determines the claimant's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”), which is
the ability to perform physical or mental work activities on
a sustained basis, notwithstanding limitations for the
collective impairments. See Id. §
then proceeds to step four and determines whether the
claimant's RFC permits him or her to perform the
requirements of his or her past relevant work. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(f). If the claimant can perform such
requirements, then he or she is not disabled. Id. If
he or she cannot, the analysis proceeds to the fifth and
final step, wherein the burden shifts to the Commissioner to
show that the claimant is not disabled. Id. §
404.1520(g). To do so, the Commissioner must present evidence
to demonstrate that the claimant “retains a residual
functional capacity to perform alternative substantial
gainful work which exists in the national economy” ...