Larocque v. Colvin
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER: The Court hereby ORDERS that Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings is DENIED; and the Court further ORDERS that Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings is GRANTED; and theCourt further ORDERS that the Clerk of the Court shall serve a copy of this Memorandum-Decision and Order on all parties in accordance with the Local Rules. Signed by U.S. District Judge Mae A. D'Agostino on 3/31/15. (ban)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
FAITH J. LAROCQUE,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
LAW OFFICES OF DAVID
C. BURAN P.C.
78 Severance Green Suite 106
Colchester, Vermont 05446
Attorney for Plaintiff
DAVID C. BURAN, ESQ.
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
Office of Regional General Counsel
26 Federal Plaza - Room 3904
Attorneys for Defendant
PETER W. JEWETT, ESQ.
Mae A. D'Agostino, U.S. District Judge:
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
Plaintiff commenced this action on May 10, 2013, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking
review of a decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's application for
disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). See Dkt. No. 1.
On May 10, 2010, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB, alleging a disability onset date of
August 2, 2008. See Dkt. No. 6, Administrative Transcript ("T.") at 125.1 This application was
Plaintiff's initial application alleges an onset date of January 1, 2009. T. at 125.
However, at her hearing before the ALJ, Plaintiff clarified that the actual alleged onset date is
August 2, 2008. Id. at 33.
denied on July 23, 2010. T. at 75-78. Plaintiff then requested a hearing and appeared with her
counsel before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Mary Sparks on July 18, 2011. Id. at 27. On
September 20, 2011, ALJ Sparks issued a decision denying Plaintiff's application. See id. at 1221. Plaintiff subsequently requested review by the Appeals Council and was denied such review
on March 7, 2013, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See id. at
Presently before the Court are the parties' cross motions for judgment on the pleadings.
See Dkt. Nos. 19, 20.
Plaintiff was born on May 27, 1981, and was 30 years old at the time of the hearing. T. at
31-32. Before August 2, 2008, and until October 2008, Plaintiff reported work as a day care
provider for her cousin's children. Id. at 33. Plaintiff testified that she "lasted one month[,]" but
had to "quit because it got too overwhelming for [her], and she could not handle it anymore." Id.
Plaintiff further testified that she has not worked since then. Id.
The record evidence in this case is undisputed, and the Court adopts the parties' factual
recitations regarding the relevant factual background. Dkt. No. 20 at 3 ("The Commissioner
incorporates the statement of facts set forth in Plaintiff's Brief (Pl. Br.) 1-6, as well as the
statement facts contained in the ALJ's decision. Tr. 12-21").
1. Five-step analysis
For purposes of SSI and DIB, a person is disabled when he is unable "to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental
impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last
for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 1382(c)(3)(A). There is a fivestep analysis for evaluating disability claims:
First, the [Commissioner] considers whether the claimant is
currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. If he is not, the
[Commissioner] next considers whether the claimant has a "severe
impairment" which significantly limits his physical or mental
ability to do basic work activities. If the claimant suffers such an
impairment, the third inquiry is whether, based solely on medical
evidence, the claimant has an impairment which is listed in
Appendix 1 of the regulations. If the claimant has such an
impairment, the [Commissioner] will consider him disabled without
considering vocational factors such as age, education, and work
experience; the [Commissioner] presumes that a claimant who is
afflicted with a "listed" impairment is unable to perform substantial
gainful activity. Assuming the claimant does not have a listed
impairment, the fourth inquiry is whether, despite the claimant's
severe impairment, he has the residual functional capacity to
perform his past work. Finally, if the claimant is unable to perform
his past work, the [Commissioner] then determines whether there is
other work which the claimant could perform.
Berry v. Schweiker, 675 F.2d 464, 467 (2d Cir. 1982); see also Rosa v. Callahan, 168 F.3d 72, 77
(2d Cir. 1999) (citations omitted). The claimant bears the burden of proof on the first four steps,
while the Social Security Administration bears the burden on the last step. Id.
In reviewing a final decision by the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405, the Court does
not determine de novo whether a plaintiff is disabled. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3);
Wagner v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 906 F.2d 856, 860 (2d Cir. 1990). Rather, the Court
must examine the Administrative Record to ascertain whether the correct legal standards were
applied, and whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence. See Shaw v. Chater, 221
F.3d 126, 131 (2d Cir. 2000); Schaal v. Apfel, 134 F.3d 496, 500-01 (2d Cir. 1998). "Substantial
evidence" is evidence that amounts to "more than a mere scintilla," and it has been defined as
"such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion."
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).
If supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's finding must be sustained "even
where substantial evidence may support the plaintiff's position and despite that the court's
independent analysis of the evidence may differ from the [Commissioner's]." Rosado v. Sullivan,
805 F. Supp. 147, 153 (S.D.N.Y. 1992) (citing Rutherford v. Schweiker, 685 F.2d 60, 62 (2d Cir.
1982)) (other citations omitted). In other words, this Court must afford the Commissioner's
determination considerable deference, and may not substitute "its own judgment for that of the
[Commissioner], even if it might justifiably have reached a different result upon a de novo
review." Valente v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 733 F.2d 1037, 1041 (2d Cir. 1984).
The ALJ's Decision
At the first step of the sequential analysis, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since August 2, 2008. T. at 14. At step two, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: panic disorder with agoraphobia, depression, and
asthma. Id. At the third step of the analysis, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix. Id. at 15. The ALJ then found that
Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a full range of work at all
exertional levels. Id. at 17. Additionally, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
is limited to low stress work, which is defined as occupations
having no decision-making responsibilities and requiring no
changes in her work settings; occupations requiring no interaction
with the public or co-workers; and she must avoid moderate
exposure to extreme cold or respiratory irritants such as fumes,
odors, gases, or poorly ventilated areas.
Id. At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has been unable to perform any past relevant work.
Id. at 20. At the fifth and final step of the analysis, the ALJ solicited the testimony of a
vocational expert. Id. at 20-21. The vocational expert testified that a hypothetical individual of
Plaintiff's age, with her education, past relevant work experience, and RFC (as described above),
could perform the representative occupations of housekeeper, hand packager, and electrical
assembler. Id. at 20. Respectively, these occupations are classified by the U.S. Department of
Labor's Dictionary of Occupational Titles ("DOT") as: (1) job number 323.687-014, with 865,960
jobs existing nationally, (2) job number 920.587-018, with 676,870 jobs existing nationally, and
(3) job number 728.687-010, with 180,440 jobs existing nationally. Id. at 20-21. The ALJ relied
on this testimony to determine that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined by the Social Security
Act. Id. at 21.
1. Medical source statement of Dr. Frank
Upon judicial review of a denial, a district court may remand a case to the Commissioner
to consider additional evidence that was not included as part of the original administrative
proceedings. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (sentence six) ("The court . . . may at any time order
additional evidence to be taken before the Commissioner of Social Security, but only upon a
showing that there is new evidence which is material and that there is good cause for the failure to
incorporate such evidence into the record in a prior proceeding . . ."). This type of remand,
commonly referred to as a "sentence six remand," is only appropriate if a plaintiff can show that
the evidence is (1) new and not cumulative of what is already in the record; (2) material in that it
is relevant to the claimant's condition during the time period for which benefits were denied and
there is a reasonable possibility that the new evidence would have influenced the Commissioner
to decide the disability determination differently; and (3) good cause has been shown for failing
to present the evidence earlier. Lisa v. Sec'y of Dep't of Health and Human Servs., 940 F.2d 40,
43 (2d Cir. 1991); Tirado v. Bowen, 842 F.2d 595, 597 (2d Cir. 1988).
Plaintiff argues that the "Appeals Council should have considered the medical source
statement of Psychiatrist Joshua Frank." Dkt. No. 19 at 8. In support of her position, Plaintiff
stated that "it can be fairly inferred that Dr. Frank's opinions [were] necessarily based . . . on
events which occurred/circumstances that existed prior to his first session with plaintiff - prior to
the ALJ's decision." Id. at 9 (emphasis in original). However, Plaintiff failed to include this
medical evidence for the Court's review along with her motion for judgment on the pleadings.
In response, Defendant alleges that "Plaintiff has submitted no evidence that the substance
of Dr. Frank's opinion related to the relevant time period. . . . Nor has she presented any evidence
that Dr. Frank was opining about her functioning prior to September 2011." Dkt. No. 20 at 7.
Defendant also alleges that "Plaintiff has presented no evidence of a treating relationship during
the relevant period" because Plaintiff's statements within her brief contradict the existence of a
treating relationship prior to the ALJ's decision, and Plaintiff does not include the "nature of her
treatment relationship with Dr. Frank, or the frequency of their treating relationship." Id. at 6.
The Court finds that Plaintiff has failed to support her position in regard to Dr. Frank's
medical source statement, because Plaintiff has not included the alleged new and material
evidence along with her motion for judgment on the pleadings. However, even if Plaintiff's
statements regarding the new evidence are accepted as true, they would not require that the Court
remand this case for further consideration of new evidence. "[P]ost-hearing evidence must be
new and material, and must relate to the period on or before the date of the ALJ's decision."
Lasher v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec, No. 1:11-cv-0777, 2012 WL 4511284, *4 (N.D.N.Y. Oct. 1, 2012).
Plaintiff did not allege that she had a treating relationship with Dr. Frank before the ALJ's
decision, and without this new evidence, the Court cannot determine whether it is relevant to
Plaintiff's condition during the time period relevant to the ALJ's decision. Although Plaintiff
urges the Court to infer that Dr. Frank's opinion was based on "events which
occurred/circumstances that existed prior to his first session with plaintiff[,]" her statements
provide no basis to reach this conclusion. Dkt. No. 19 at 9. While Plaintiff's statements to Dr.
Frank may well be based on events prior to their first session, Plaintiff has provided no basis for
the Court to come to such a conclusion. Paquette v. Colvin, No. 7:12-cv-1470, 2014 WL 636343,
*9 (N.D.N.Y. Feb. 18, 2014) (remanding based on new evidence where a treating relationship
existed between the plaintiff and the physician before the ALJ's decision, and the physician
submitted a "dramatically different" medical source statement after the ALJ's decision).
Accordingly, the Court holds that Dr. Frank's medical source statement does not constitute new
and material evidence that requires remand.
2. The ALJ's RFC determination is supported by substantial evidence
Next, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ did not rely on substantial evidence when she
determined Plaintiff's RFC. See Dkt. No. 19 at 9. However, she exclusively references her own
testimony in support of this position. Therefore, the Court will conduct examinations of both the
RFC determination and the ALJ's credibility determination regarding Plaintiff's testimony.
The ALJ determined that Plaintiff should have a job with "no decision-making
responsibility and requiring no changes in her work setting; occupations requiring no interaction
with the public or co-workers; and she must avoid moderate exposure to extreme cold or
respiratory irritants such as fumes, odors, gases, or poorly ventilated areas." T. at 17.
The medical evidence record ("MER") in this case includes Plaintiff's progress notes and
office treatment records from Tower Health Center (id. at 197-207, 238-44), social assessments
and a psychiatric evaluation from the Cerebral Palsy Association (id. at 208-11, 214-16, 245-48),
psychiatric summaries and treatment records from Community Health Center and the North
Country (id. at 217, 353-65), treatment records from Alice Hyde Medical Center (id. at 316-52), a
psychiatric review technique and Mental RFC assessment completed by A. Herrick, M.D. (id. at
218-37), and Dr. King's medical source statement (id. at 374-82). The Court finds that the MER
is consistent with the ALJ's RFC determination.
Plaintiff briefly argues that Dr. King's medical source statement should have been
disregarded by the ALJ, because it reflects only Dr. King's animosity towards Plaintiff's attorney.
Dkt. No. 19 at 9. However, Defendant correctly contends that "[t]here is simply no evidence that
Dr. King was biased against Plaintiff, or that he would punish his own patient for her dealings
with her counsel . . . ." Id. at 10. After reviewing Dr. King's records, the Court finds that there is
no evidence, beyond Plaintiff's own allegations, that Dr. King's medical source statement was not
based on his treatment record with Plaintiff. Further, as discussed below, it is evident that,
although the ALJ gave great weight to Dr. King's opinion, the RFC determination included
limitations that were not present in Dr. King's medical source statement, but were consistent with
other evidence in the record.
The evidence demonstrates that although the ALJ did not specifically reference all
relevant evidence, her RFC determination is supported by substantial evidence. Cichoki v.
Astrue, 729 F.3d 172, 178 n.3 (2d Cir. 2013) ("An ALJ need not recite every piece of evidence
that contributed to the decision, so long as the record 'permits us to glean the rationale of an ALJ's
decision'") (quoting Mongeur v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1033, 1040 (2d Cir. 1983)). Dr. Herrick's
mental RFC assessment found "no marked limitations[,]" and that Plaintiff "is capable of
adequately understanding and remembering; attending, concentrating, and persisting to do work
like functions." T. at 234-36. Further, Dr. Herrick found moderate difficulties in maintaining
social functioning, maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace, and found moderate
restrictions in Plaintiff's activities of daily living. Id. at 228. These findings are consistent with
those noted by the ALJ, when she determined that "plaintiff suffered from moderate symptoms"
based on Dr. King's April 6, 2010 psychiatric evaluation. Id. at 214-16. The record shows that
not only did the ALJ not "improperly mischaracterize evidence and ignore other evidence[,]"
(Dkt. No. 10 at 10) but that she included non-exertional limitations that fully account for the
medical evidence of record. She did this by taking into account Plaintiff's testimony "that she
suffers from anxiety and panic attacks when in public" in the RFC determination, by limiting
Plaintiff to "occupations requiring no interaction with the public or co-workers." T. at 17.
Therefore, even if the Court agreed with Plaintiff that reliance on Dr. King's medical statement
was legal error, any resulting error was harmless, because the ALJ included non-exertional
limitations that take into account the whole record.
Additionally, while Plaintiff argues that the ALJ did not take into account Plaintiff's
educational accommodations, the ALJ's decision shows that she considered Plaintiff's modified
educational setting. As Defendant correctly contends, "a review of the decision reveals that the
ALJ . . . noted, for example, that Plaintiff testified that she experienced significant anxiety and
depression, that she experienced anxiety attacks, . . . and that she obtained her college degree only
with the help of instructors who were aware of her situations and made accommodations." Dkt.
No. 20 at 8 (citing T. at 18, 166-70, 172). Specifically, the ALJ referenced Plaintiff's testimony
that "her instructors were aware of her situation and made accommodations." T. at 18. However,
the ALJ continued, stating that "[a]lthough the claimant stated that her instructors were aware of
her limitations, she was nevertheless required to attend classes and interact with both instructors
and classmates." Id. at 19. After reviewing the ALJ's decision and the rest of the record, the
Court finds that the ALJ did not ignore any evidence when she made her RFC determination.
Based on the foregoing, the Court finds that the ALJ's RFC determination was supported
by substantial evidence.
3. The ALJ made a proper credibility determination
"The ALJ has discretion to assess the credibility of a claimant's testimony regarding
disabling pain and to arrive at an independent judgment, in light of medical findings and other
evidence, regarding the true extent of the pain alleged by the claimant." Marcus v. Califano, 615
F.2d 23, 27 (2d Cir. 1979). The regulations set out a two-step process for assessing a claimant's
statements about pain and other limitations:
At the first step, the ALJ must decide whether the claimant suffers
from a medically determinable impairment that could reasonably be
expected to produce the symptoms alleged. . . . If the claimant does
suffer from such an impairment, at the second step, the ALJ must
consider "the extent to which [the claimant's] symptoms can
reasonably be accepted as consistent with the objective medical
evidence and other evidence" of record. . . . The ALJ must consider
"[s]tatements [the claimant] or others make about [her]
impairment(s), [her] restrictions, [her] daily activities, [her] efforts
to work, or any other relevant statements [she] makes to medical
sources during the course of examination or treatment, or to [the
agency] during interviews, on applications, in letters, and in
testimony in [its] administrative proceedings."
Genier v. Astrue, 606 F.3d 46, 49 (2d Cir. 2010) (quotations and citations omitted).
If a plaintiff's testimony concerning the intensity, persistence or functional limitations
associated with his impairments is not fully supported by clinical evidence, the ALJ must
consider additional factors in order to assess that testimony, including the following: (1) daily
activities; (2) location, duration, frequency, and intensity of any symptoms; (3) precipitating and
aggravating factors; (4) type, dosage, effectiveness and side effects of any medications taken; (5)
other treatment received; and (6) other measures taken to relieve symptoms. 20 C.F.R. §
416.929(c)(3)(i)-(vi). The issue is not whether the clinical and objective findings are consistent
with an inability to perform all substantial activity, but whether the plaintiff's statements about the
intensity, persistence, or functionally limiting effects of his symptoms are consistent with the
objective medical and other evidence. See SSR 96-7p, Policy Interpretation Ruling Titles II and
XVI: Evaluation of Symptoms in Disability Claims: Assessing the Credibility of an Individual's
Statements, 1996 WL 374186, *2 (Soc. Sec. Admin. July 2, 1996). One strong indication of
credibility of an individual's statements is their consistency, both internally and with other
information in the record. Id. at *5.
"After considering plaintiff's subjective testimony, the objective medical evidence, and
any other factors deemed relevant, the ALJ may accept or reject claimant's subjective testimony."
Saxon v. Astrue, 781 F. Supp. 2d 92, 105 (N.D.N.Y. 2011) (citing, inter alia, 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1529(c)(4), 416.929(c)(4)). An ALJ rejecting subjective testimony "'must do so explicitly
and with sufficient specificity to enable the Court to decide whether there are legitimate reasons
for the ALJ's disbelief and whether his decision is supported by substantial evidence."' Melchior
v. Apfel, 15 F. Supp. 2d 215, 219 (N.D.N.Y. 1998) (quoting Brandon v. Bowen, 666 F. Supp. 604,
608 (S.D.N.Y. 1987)). The Commissioner may discount a plaintiff's testimony to the extent that
it is inconsistent with medical evidence, the lack of medical treatment, and her own activities
during the relevant period. See Howe-Andrews v. Astrue, No. CV-05-4539, 2007 WL 1839891,
*10 (E.D.N.Y. June 27, 2007). With regard to the sufficiency of credibility determinations, the
Commissioner has stated that
[i]t is not sufficient for the adjudicator to make a single, conclusory
statement that "the individual's allegations have been considered" or
that "the allegations are (or are not) credible." It is also not enough
for the adjudicator simply to recite the factors that are described in
the regulations for evaluating symptoms. The determination or
decision must contain specific reasons for the finding on credibility,
supported by the evidence in the case record, and must be
sufficiently specific to make clear to the individual and to any
subsequent reviewers the weight the adjudicator gave to the
individual's statements and the reasons for that weight.
SSR 96-7p, 1996 WL 374186, at *2.
Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ failed to explain her credibility determination. Dkt. No. 19
at 13. However, other than chronicling the testimony that she alleges the ALJ ignored, Plaintiff
makes no arguments regarding the ALJ's claimed error.
In response, Defendant claims that "there was little support for Plaintiff's [testimony] in
the record." Dkt. No. 20 at 8. Defendant references the ALJ's decision, that "Plaintiff was
necessarily required to attend class, and interact with professors and student[,]" and therefore
"this level of activity is inconsistent with Plaintiff's claims." Id. at 8. Further, Defendant notes
the ALJ's statement "that Plaintiff did not stop working due to anxiety attacks, but rather, to take
care of an ailing grandmother[,]" an activity "inherently inconsistent with Plaintiff's allegations of
disabling anxiety." Id.
The Court finds that the ALJ made a proper credibility determination regarding Plaintiff's
testimony based on the required factors in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529(c). First, the ALJ discussed
Plaintiff's daily activities, which include "cooking and cleaning, because she remains in her
home." Id. at 19. Second, she discussed Plaintiff's symptoms, including "that she experiences
significant anxiety and depression," and that she "experiences anxiety attacks and is unable to go
into stores with crowds." Id. at 18. Third, the ALJ noted factors that precipitate and aggravate
the symptoms, including "being amid crowds" and "go[ing] into stores with crowds." Id. Fourth,
the ALJ discussed the medication claimant has taken, including "Lexapro, Celexa, and Pristique."
Id. at 19. Fifth, the ALJ discussed measures other than treatment Plaintiff uses, including that
Plaintiff goes to the store late at night to avoid crowds, and that she does not attend large family
gatherings. Id. at 18. Sixth, the ALJ discussed other factors related to Plaintiff's functional
limitations, including "that her sleep is poor and she is often fatigued. [Further, s]he is sometimes
sad and tearful. [Finally, w]hen her children and husband are away, she worries." Id. at 19.
After considering the additional factors according to 20 C.F.R. § 416.929(c)(3)(i)-(vi), the
ALJ properly discounted Plaintiff's testimony to the extent that it was inconsistent with the
medical evidence, the lack of medical treatment, and her own activities during the relevant period.
See Howe-Andrews, 2007 WL 1839891 at *10. Specifically, the ALJ found that: (1) Plaintiff
only sought counseling in March 2010, and then ceased treatment in April 2011, (2) Dr. King's
examinations found that Plaintiff only "suffered from moderate symptoms[,]" (3) Plaintiff "was
able to attend college and obtain a degree[,]" and (4) Plaintiff "did not stop work as a result of
anxiety. Rather she stopped work to assume responsibilities for her grandmother, whose health
was deteriorating." T. at 19. Based on foregoing, the ALJ found "that the claimant's statements
concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of [her] symptoms are not entirely
Accordingly, "[t]he Court finds that the ALJ employed the proper legal standards in
assessing the credibility of Plaintiff's complaints and adequately specified the reasons for
discrediting Plaintiff's statements. Morris v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 5:12-cv-1795, 2014 WL
1451996, *8 (N.D.N.Y. Apr. 14, 2014).
Additionally, Plaintiff claims that the ALJ must explain why she "found the plaintiff's
denial not to be credible" regarding Plaintiff's testimony that she "never stated . . . [that she] was
no longer interested in counseling[,]" which is contrary to Dr. King's treatment notes. Dkt. No. 19
at 10; T. at 43, 353. However, the ALJ does state that "if the claimant was suffering from
disabling symptomology, she would have sought counseling and medication management." T. at
19. Accordingly, the ALJ's decision was based on the fact that Plaintiff initially declined
treatment, and later on stopped getting treatment, not on the reasons behind ending the treatment.
As the ALJ properly set out her reasons for discounting Plaintiff's testimony, her determination,
"taken as a whole . . . is not patently unreasonable[,]" and therefore must be affirmed. Hoffman v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 5:13-cv-846, 2014 WL 6610059, *5 (N.D.N.Y. Nov. 20, 2014)
Further, Plaintiff takes issue with a number of statements in the ALJ's decision regarding
events Plaintiff can no longer attend, and claims that the ALJ failed to explain why Plaintiff's
statements were not credible. Dkt. No. 19 at 10-13. Plaintiff claims that the ALJ did not
acknowledge that "Plaintiff testified that she cannot even [go] to family holiday
meals/functions[,]" and that Plaintiff was not able to remain at bingo and "had to leave after about
an hour due to a severe panic attack." Id. at 13. The only limitation the ALJ could have included
based on this testimony would be to limit the number of people Plaintiff is required to interact
with during work. However, as discussed above, the ALJ's RFC determination was supported by
substantial evidence, and included the limitation that Plaintiff work only in "occupations
requiring no interaction with the public or co-workers." T. at 17. This limitation in the RFC
determination ensures that any error in the ALJ's credibility determination was harmless.
Further, Plaintiff alleges that the ALJ found Plaintiff's testimony that she "wanted to
work" as indicative of an ability "to [actually] work a full-time job." Dkt. No. 19 at 13.
However, the ALJ's decision does not indicate that she made this mistake. Instead, the decision
notes that the ALJ found "evidence of a moderate degree of limitation with regard to social
functioning" based on Plaintiff's testimony that she was "looking for employment[,]" and based
on other evidence the ALJ discusses. T. at 16.
Based on the foregoing, the Court holds that the ALJ's credibility determination was
supported by substantial evidence.
After carefully reviewing the entire record in this matter, the parties' submission and the
applicable law, and for the above-stated reasons, the Court hereby
ORDERS that Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings is DENIED; and the Court
ORDERS that Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings is GRANTED; and the
ORDERS that the Clerk of the Court shall serve a copy of this Memorandum-Decision
and Order on all parties in accordance with the Local Rules; and the Court further
ORDERS that the Clerk of the Court shall enter judgment and close this case.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
Dated: March 31, 2015
Albany, New York
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