Rodolph v. Colvin
DECISION AND ORDER denying 9 Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings; granting 13 Commissioner's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. (Clerk to close case.) Signed by Hon. Michael A. Telesca on 2/23/17. (JMC)-CLERK TO FOLLOW UP-
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
VERNA D. RODOLPH,
No. 1:15-CV-01065 (MAT)
DECISION AND ORDER
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
Represented by counsel, Verna D. Rodolph (“plaintiff”) brings
this action pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act (“the
Act”), seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security (“the Commissioner”) denying her application for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). 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 June 2012, plaintiff (d/o/b April
28, 1959) applied for DIB, alleging disability as of December 21,
2010. After her application was denied, plaintiff requested a
hearing, which was held before administrative law judge Robert T.
unfavorable decision on April 3, 2014. The Appeals Council denied
review of the ALJ’s decision and this timely action followed.
III. The ALJ’s Decision
At step one of the five-step sequential evaluation process,
see 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520, the ALJ determined that plaintiff had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 21, 2010,
the alleged onset date. At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff
suffered from the following severe impairments: bilateral shoulder
“osteoarthritis of the right hand index finger.” T. 13. At step
three, the ALJ found that plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled a listed
Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ determined that,
considering all of plaintiff’s impairments, plaintiff retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a light work as
defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) “except lifting and carrying
with the right upper extremity should not exceed five pounds”;
plaintiff had “occasional limitations in bending and crawling as
well as occasional limitations in the ability to reach in all
directions with the right upper extremity, occasional limitations
limitations in pushing and pulling with the right upper extremity”;
and plaintiff could not work “in areas where she would be exposed
to cold and dampness.” T. 16.
At step four, the ALJ found that plaintiff was unable to
perform any past relevant work. At step five, the ALJ determined
that considering plaintiff’s age, 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 that the RFC was unsupported by substantial
evidence. Specifically, plaintiff argues that her reports of pain
as well as the objective medical findings indicate limitations
greater than that found by ALJ. Plaintiff also takes issue with the
ALJ’s failure to make a specific function-by-function assessment of
plaintiff’s limitations, and argues that the RFC failed to account
for her mental limitations.
completed for workers compensation purposes, Dr. Karen Sarpolis
opined that plaintiff was frequently limited in climbing and
balancing; occasionally limited in kneeling, crouching, crawling,
and stooping; and limited in reaching overhead with the left arm.
Dr. Sarpolis concluded that “[t]he totality of the medical evidence
support[ed] the establishment of a light RFC with restrictions
regarding [plaintiff’s] ability to reach overhead on the left side
due to the left shoulder impairment.” T. 501. Plaintiff argues that
the failure to include specific left arm limitations in the RFC
plaintiff’s left shoulder condition improved appreciably following
experienced pain and limitations in her right upper extremity, not
her left. Moreover, the ALJ’s attribution of only “some” weight to
Dr. Sarpolis’s opinion, due to the fact that she “did not have the
benefit of additional evidence and [plaintiff’s] testimony that was
available to the [ALJ],” supports the ALJ’s incorporation of only
some of the limitations found by Dr. Sarpolis. T. 21.
September 4, 2012, state agency physician Dr. Hongbiao Liu found a
full ROM of the elbows, forearms, and wrists bilaterally, as well
as full ROM of the hips, knees, and ankles bilaterally. He opined
that plaintiff had “mild limitation lifting, carrying, reaching
psychiatric examination, Dr. Santarpia found no abnormalities on
mental status exam, and opined that plaintiff “present[ed] as able
concentration, maintain a regular schedule, learn new tasks, make
appropriately deal with stress all within normal limits.” T. 438.
The only limitation Dr. Santarpia noted was “[m]ild impairment . .
. in performing complex tasks independently,” which difficulty was
“caused by lack of motivation.” Id.
The Court has reviewed the administrative record and concludes
that the RFC found by the ALJ is supported by substantial evidence.
The ALJ’s restriction of plaintiff to light work, as well as his
findings of various limitations with regard to plaintiff’s upper
right extremity, was consistent with Dr. Liu’s opinion of only mild
restrictions in lifting, carrying, and reaching overhead. The ALJ’s
assignment of limitations to the right upper extremity, as opposed
to the left, is supported by the record, including plaintiff’s
treatment notes and her testimony regarding her own limitations.
Additionally, the ALJ’s failure to include mental limitations in
this case was not error, because Dr. Santarpia opined as to only a
mild limitation in performing complex tasks, and attributed this
limitation to a lack of motivation.
Thus, RFC finding is fully consistent with the opinions of the
consulting examiners regarding plaintiff’s physical and mental
abilities. See Petrie v. Astrue, 412 F. App’x 401, 405 (2d Cir.
2011) (“The report of a consultative physician may constitute . .
. substantial evidence.”) (citing Mongeur v. Heckler, 722 F.2d
1033, 1039 (2d Cir. 1983) (per curiam)). Moreover, “[t]he relevant
inquiry is whether the ALJ applied the correct legal standards and
evidence. . . . [R]emand is not necessary merely because an
explicit function-by-function analysis was not performed.” Cichocki
v. Astrue, 729 F.3d 172, 177 (2d Cir. 2013). Accordingly, the
Commissioner’s motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted.
For the foregoing reasons, plaintiff’s motion for judgment on
the pleadings (Doc. 9) is denied and the Commissioner’s motion
(Doc. 13) 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
February 23, 2017
Rochester, New York
Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.
Why Is My Information Online?