United States District Court, W.D. New York
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
BUSH, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Alessandra Roxanne Volpe (“Plaintiff”) brings
this action pursuant to the Social Security Act (the
“Act”), seeking review of the final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security (the
“Commissioner”) that denied her application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Act, and her application for supplemental security
income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act.
See ECF No. 1. The Court has jurisdiction over this
action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c), and the
parties consented to proceed before the undersigned in
accordance with a standing order (see ECF No. 14).
parties moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). See ECF Nos.
9, 13. Plaintiff also filed a reply. See ECF No. 15.
For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's motion (ECF
No. 9) is GRANTED, the Commissioner's
motion (ECF No. 13) is DENIED, and this
matter is REMANDED to the Commissioner for
further administrative proceedings.
protectively filed her DIB and SSI applications on September
26, 2014, alleging disability beginning December 4, 2012 (the
disability onset date) due to: “(1) knees; (2) GI
issues; (3) anxiety; (4) depression; (5) ADD; (6) sleep
apnea; (7) shoulder; (8) back; (9) migraines; (10) asthma;
and (11) allergies.” Transcript (“Tr.”)
173-79, 187-92, 220. Plaintiff's applications were denied
initially on April 28, 2015 (96-97), after which she
requested an administrative hearing (Tr. 10, 171). On August
15, 2017, Administrative Law Judge Paul Georger (the
“ALJ”) presided over a hearing in Buffalo, New
York. Tr. 10, 38. Plaintiff appeared and testified at the
hearing and was represented by Felice A. Brodsky, an
attorney. Id. Jay Steinbrenner, an impartial
vocational expert (“VE”), also appeared and
testified at the hearing. Id.
issued an unfavorable decision on October 3, 2017, finding
that Plaintiff was not disabled. Tr. 10-23. On September 25,
2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
further review. Tr. 1-6. The ALJ's decision thus became
the “final decision” of the Commissioner subject
to judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
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) (citing 42
U.S.C. § 405(g)) (other citation omitted). The Act holds
that the Commissioner's decision 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) (citations
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. 1990).
The Sequential Evaluation Process
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”
within the meaning of 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 meeting the
durational requirements, 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. Id. § 404.1509. If not, the ALJ
determines the claimant's residual functional capacity,
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” ...