Daniels v. Colvin
DECISION AND ORDER denying 11 Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings; denying 12 Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings; and granting 17 Commissioner's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. (Clerk to close case.). Signed by Hon. Michael A. Telesca on 4/8/17. (JMC)-CLERK TO FOLLOW UP-
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
SHANTELL Y. DANIELS,
No. 1:14-CV-00994 (MAT)
DECISION AND ORDER
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
Represented by counsel, Shantell Y. Daniels (“plaintiff”)
brings this action pursuant to Titles II and XVI of the Social
Security Act (“the Act”), seeking review of the final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security (“the Commissioner”) denying
her applications for disability insurance benfits (“DIB”) and
supplemental security income (“SSI”). The Court has jurisdiction
over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Presently before
the Court are 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, the Commissioner’s
motion is granted.
The record reveals that in April 2011, plaintiff (d/o/b
March 8, 1969) applied for DIB and SSI, alleging disability as of
April 11, 2007. After her applications were denied, plaintiff
requested a hearing, which was held before administrative law judge
David Lewandowski (“the ALJ”) on November 7, 2012. The ALJ issued
an unfavorable decision on May 20, 2013. The Appeals Council denied
review of the ALJ’s decision and this timely action followed.
III. The ALJ’s Decision
Initially, the ALJ found that plaintiff met the insured status
requirements of the Act through June 30, 2011. At step one of the
five-step sequential evaluation process, see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,
416.920, the ALJ determined that plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since April 11, 2007, the alleged
onset date. At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff suffered from
the following severe impairments: obesity, asthma, knee pain status
post arthroscopy, shoulder tendinopathy and bursitis, and low back
and neck pain. At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff did not
have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled a listed impairment.
Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ determined that,
considering all of plaintiff’s impairments, plaintiff retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work as
defined in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b), 416.967(b), with the following
limitations: she could occasionally climb stairs, balance, and
stoop; she could never kneel, crouch, or crawl; she must avoid
environmental irritants; she could occasionally push and pull; she
could perform no overhead activities; she must avoid extreme
temperatures; and she must have a sit/stand option that could be
exercised every 15 minutes. At step four, the ALJ found that
plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work. At step
education, work experience, and RFC, jobs existed in significant
numbers in the national economy which plaintiff could perform.
Accordingly, the ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled.
determination that a claimant is not disabled only if the factual
findings are not supported by “substantial evidence” or if the
decision is based on legal error. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also
Green-Younger v. Barnhart, 335 F.3d 99, 105-06 (2d Cir. 2003).
“Substantial evidence means ‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.’” Shaw v.
Chater, 221 F.3d 126, 131 (2d Cir. 2000).
Plaintiff contends, at points I and III of her brief, that the
ALJ improperly assessed her credibility. Specifically, plaintiff
argues that the ALJ mischaracterized certain portions her testimony
and the medical record when reaching his credibility determination,
and failed to properly evaluate her subjective complaints of pain.
For the reasons that follow, the Court concludes that the ALJ
properly evaluated plaintiff’s credibility.
considered her testimony and the extent to which it was consistent
with the medical record as a whole. The ALJ correctly noted that
plaintiff testified that she could sit for only up to 15 minutes at
a time, but also testified that she can drive a car for up to 30
minutes. Additionally, the ALJ noted that objective imaging and
physical examinations of plaintiff revealed relatively unremarkable
findings inconsistent with her subjective complaints. For example,
MRIs of the lumbar spine, left knee, and left shoulder were
unremarkable, showing no significant abnormalities. State agency
consulting physician Dr. Hongbiao Liu noted on physical examination
that plaintiff demonstrated full ranges of motion (“ROM”) and
opined that she was limited merely in regard to exposure to
environmental irritants due to her asthma. The ALJ also noted
records, such as a note from an examination in March 2011 that
process[, but] [i]mmediately upon placing stethoscope on [her]
chest [she] coughed incessantly.” T. 265.
plaintiff’s credibility are borne out by the record. Moreover, the
credibility was performed according to the relevant legal standard.
See Britt v. Astrue, 486 F. App’x 161, 164 (2d Cir. 2012) (finding
explicit mention of 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529 and SSR 96–7p as evidence
that the ALJ used the proper legal standard in assessing the
claimant's credibility); Judelsohn v. Astrue, 2012 WL 2401587, *6
(W.D.N.Y. June 25, 2012) (“Failure to expressly consider every
factor set forth in the regulations is not grounds for remand where
sufficiently specific to conclude that he considered the entire
Vocational Expert Testimony
vocational expert (“VE”) testimony that plaintiff could perform the
plaintiff argues that the jobs cited by the VE were either out of
plaintiff’s skill range or she was unable to perform them because
of limitations in the use of her hands. Essentially, plaintiff’s
contentions amount to an argument that the hypothetical questions
Upon a thorough review of the record and the VE testimony at
plaintiff’s hearing, the Court concludes that the ALJ properly
determination. The hypothetical individual presented to the VE by
the ALJ was fully consistent with the ALJ’s RFC finding. That RFC
including the one functional assessment in the record from state
agency physician Dr. Liu, who opined that plaintiff had limitations
related only to environmental irritants such as smoke and dust.
Because the hypothetical was supported by substantial evidence, and
the jobs cited by the VE were not inconsistent with the RFC, the
ALJ’s reliance on the VE’s testimony was proper. See, e.g., Pardee
v. Astrue, 631 F. Supp. 2d 200, 212 (N.D.N.Y. 2009).
For the foregoing reasons, plaintiff’s motion for judgment on
the pleadings (Doc. 12) is denied and the Commissioner’s motion
(Doc. 17) is granted. The Clerk of the Court is directed to close
ALL OF THE ABOVE IS SO ORDERED.
S/Michael A. Telesca
HON. MICHAEL A. TELESCA
United States District Judge
April 8, 2017
Rochester, New York
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