Bond v. Commissioner of Social Security

Filing 21

MEMORANDUM-DECISION & ORDER: that Plaintiff's 16 motion for judgment on the pleadings is Denied; that the Commissioner's 20 motion for judgment on the pleadings is Granted; that the Commissioner's final decision is Affirmed and that the Plaintiff's 1 Complaint is Dismissed. Signed by Judge David N. Hurd on 07/16/2021. (hmr)

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Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 385 F. Supp. 3d 174, 183 (N.D.N.Y. 2019) (citation omitted). "The claimant's RFC is determined based on all of the relevant medical and other evidence in the record, including the claimant's credible testimony, objective medical evidence, and medical opinions from treating and consulting sources." Rivera v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 368 F. Supp. 3d 626, 640 (S.D.N.Y. 2019). "In practice, administrative law judges rely principally on medical source opinion and subjective testimony when assessing impaired individuals' ability to engage in work-related activities." Tammy Lynn B., 382 F. Supp. 3d at 192-93 (citation omitted). 1. Dr. Sennett Plaintiffs first RFC-related argument is about a medical source statement provided by Margaret Sennett, M.D., plaintiffs long-time primary care doctor. Pl.'s Mem. at 11-16. According to plaintiff, the ALJ "failed to establish good reasons for discounting [this] opinion," which "proffered limitations that are preclusive of sustained work activity." Id. at 15-16. Broadly speaking, the Regulations divide evidence from a claimant's medical sources into three categories: (1) treating; (2) acceptable; and -9- claimant need not be bedridden to be found disabled. Balsamo v. Chater, 142 F.3d 75, 81 (2d Cir. 1998). Indeed, "people should not be penalized for enduring the pain of their disability in order to care for themselves." Woodford v. Apfel, 93 F. Supp. 2d 521, 529 (S.D.N.Y. 2000). However, the Regulations explicitly direct the ALJ to consider a claimant's activities of daily living when assessing the ultimate question of disability. See Coger v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 335 F. Supp. 3d 427, 436 (W.D.N.Y. 2018); see also Coyle v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 2018 WL 3559073, at *7 (July 24, 2018) (Carter, M.J.) ("[A]n ALJ may rely on Plaintiffs activities of daily living in weighing opinion evidence in the record."). That is exactly what the ALJ did in this case. In reaching his RFC determination, the ALJ noted that plaintiff testified that she "performs a wide variety of household chores," cares for her grandson, and is able to cook, clean, do laundry, and go shopping. R. at 22. The ALJ determined that these activities were broadly supported by various treatment notes from her providers, which often mentioned that claimant "engaged in light physical activity every week." Id. Based on these findings, the ALJ concluded that "claimant has maintained a broad range of daily activities" that is consistent with a sedentary RFC. Id. Plaintiff disputes this conclusion. She insists that she can only perform these daily activities at something far less than a sustained or consistent - 16 - a claimant's mental impa irments. Kohler v. Astrue, 546 F.3d 260, 265 (2d Cir. 2008). First, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has a "medically determinable mental impa irment." 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520a (b)(l). If so, the ALJ must rate the degree of functional limita tion resulting from the mental impa irment(s). § 404.1520a (b)(2). This involves consideration of "four broad functional a rea s": (1) understanding, remembering, or applying information; (2) interacting with others; (3) concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; and (4) adapting or managing oneself. § 404.1520a(c)(4). These functional areas are measured on a five-point scale ranging between "none," "mild," "moderate," "marked," and "extreme," with the last point on the scale representing "a degree of limitation that is incompatible with the ability to do any gainful a ctivity." § 404.1520a (c)(4). If the degree of limitation in ea ch of these areas is "none" or "mild," the impairment(s) will be considered non-severe absent evidence that "otherwise indica tes that there is more than a minimal limitation in [the claimant's] ability to do basic work a ctivities." § 404.1520a(d)(l). The ALJ concluded that plaintiff had not established any "severe" mental impa irment(s). R. at 18. The ALJ also applied the "special technique" to plaintiffs evidence of mental impairments and determined that plaintiff had: no restriction in understanding, remembering, or applying information; no difficulties in interacting with others; no difficulties 1n maintaining - 18 - Dr. Sennett's assessment of more restrictive limitations, including the mental limitations she assessed. R. at 21. Thus, because the ALJ clearly considered plaintiffs mental impairments as part of his larger RFC analysis, plaintiffs argument must be rejected. See, e.g., Hanson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 2016 WL 3960486, at *4 (N.D.N.Y. June 29, 2016) (Report & Recommendation of Carter, M.J.) (explaining that the ALJ discharged his obligations by including discussion of non-severe mental impairments at step four), adopted by 2016 WL 3951150 (N.D.N.Y. July 20, 2016) (Suddaby, J.). 6 IV. CONCLUSION The ALJ applied the appropriate legal standards and supported his written decision with substantial evidence in the record. Therefore, it is ORDERED that 1. Plaintiffs motion for judgment on the pleadings is DENIED; 2. The Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is GRANTED; 3. The Commissioner's final decision is AFFIRMED; and 4. Plaintiffs complaint is DISMISSED. 6 Even assuming otherwise, the failure to credit and incorporate this "mild" limitation in adapting and managing oneself would not warrant remand. As the Commissioner explains, limitations in tolerating stress or learning new tasks remain compatible with "unskilled work activity." Def.'s Mem. at 13-14. • 20 • The Clerk of the Court is directed to enter a judgment accordingly and close the file. IT IS SO ORDERED. United State District J Dated: July 16, 2021 Utica, New York. - 21 -

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