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Maleski v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. New York

January 13, 2020

ROBERT A. MALESKI, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          LAW OFFICES OF KENNETH HILLER, PLLC Counsel for Plaintiff, MARY ELLEN GILL, ESQ. KENNETH HILLER, ESQ.

          U.S. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN. OFFICE OF REG'L GEN. COUNSEL - REGION II Counsel for Defendant, HEETANO SHAMSOONDAR, ESQ. JOANNE PENGELLY, ESQ.

          MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

          William B. Mitchell Carter, U.S. Magistrate Judge

         The parties consented, in accordance with a Standing Order, to proceed before the undersigned. (Dkt. No. 14.) The court has jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The matter is presently before the court on the parties' cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's motion is denied, and the Commissioner's motion is granted.

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background

         Plaintiff was born in 1968. (T. 78.) He completed high school. (T. 193.) Generally, Plaintiff's alleged disability consists of lumbar sprain. (T. 192.) His alleged disability onset date is February 24, 2001. (T. 78.)

         B. Procedural History

         On September 23, 2014, Plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. (T. 78.) Plaintiff's application was initially denied, after which he timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“the ALJ”). On September 19, 2017, Plaintiff appeared before the ALJ, Timothy Belford. (T. 25-64.) On September 29, 2017, ALJ Belford issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act. (T. 8-24.) On October 3, 2018, the Appeals Council (“AC”) denied Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (T. 1-5.) Thereafter, Plaintiff timely sought judicial review in this Court.

         C. The ALJ's Decision

         Generally, in his decision, the ALJ made the following five findings of fact and conclusions of law. (T. 13-20.) First, the ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 23, 2014. (T. 13.) Second, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the severe impairments of: degenerative joint disease of the thoracic and lumbar spine. (Id.) Third, the ALJ found Plaintiff did not have an impairment that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments located in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix. 1. (T. 15.) Fourth, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b); except:

no more than frequent pushing/pulling/reaching with the right upper extremity, and nor more [than] frequent handling with the right upper extremity; no more than occasional overhead reaching with the right upper extremity; no more than occasional climbing of ramps, stairs, and ladders; occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling; needs to avoid unprotected heights and hazardous moving machinery; only simple, routine tasks with occasional decision making.

(Id.)[1] Fifth, the ALJ determined Plaintiff was unable to perform past relevant work; however, there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff could perform. (T. 19.)

         II. THE PARTIES' BRIEFINGS ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION

         A. Plaintiff's Arguments

         Plaintiff makes two separate arguments in support of his motion for judgment on the pleadings. First, Plaintiff argues the ALJ failed to resolve a conflict between the vocational expert's testimony and the Dictionary of Occupational Titles; therefore, the ALJ's decision was not supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 8 at 9-11.) Second, and lastly, Plaintiff argues the ALJ made various legal errors in weighing the opinion of the consultative examiner, Michael Rosenberg, M.D. (Id. at 11-13.) Plaintiff also filed a reply in which he reiterated his original arguments. (Dkt. No. 13.)

         B. ...


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