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Gogos v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. New York

January 10, 2020

THEODORE GOGOS, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          HON. FRANK P. GERACI, JR., CHIEF JUDGE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

         INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff Theodore Gogos brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act seeking review of the denial of his Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) application. ECF No. 1. The Court has jurisdiction over this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3).

         Both parties moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). ECF Nos. 14, 16. For the reasons that follow, the Commissioner's motion is GRANTED and Gogos's motion is DENIED.

         BACKGROUND

         On June 26, 2014, Gogos protectively filed an application for SSI alleging disability based on bipolar disorder, attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (“ADHD”), and depression. Tr. 170-79, 228. On June 7, 2017, Gogos and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified at a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Timothy M. McGuan (“the ALJ”). Tr. 42. On July 31, 2017, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision. Tr. 12. On September 5, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Gogos's request for review. Tr. 1. This action seeks review of the Commissioner's final decision. ECF No. 1.

         LEGAL STANDARD

         I. District Court Review

         When a court reviews a final decision of the SSA, it does not “determine de novo whether [the claimant] is disabled.” Schaal v. Apfel, 134 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1998). Rather, the 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 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).

         II. Disability Determination

         An ALJ 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. § 416.920(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. § 416.920(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.

         At step 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. § 416.920(d). If the impairment meets or medically equals the criteria of a Listing and meets the durational requirement, the claimant is disabled. Id. § 416.909. 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. § 416.920(e)-(f).

         The ALJ 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. Id. § 416.920(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. § 416.920(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” in ...


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