Betancourt Ruiz v. Commissioner of Social Security
DECISION AND ORDERIT HEREBY IS ORDERED, that Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Docket No. 14) is DENIED.FURTHER, that Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Docket No. 15) is GRANTED.FURTHER, that the Clerk of Court is directed to CLOSE this case.SO ORDERED.Signed by William M. Skretny, United States District Judge on 5/5/2022. (JCM)-CLERK TO FOLLOW UP-
Case 1:20-cv-01243-WMS Document 18 Filed 05/05/22 Page 1 of 14
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
DECISION AND ORDER
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
Plaintiff Keila R. 1 challenges the determination of an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) that she is not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act (“the
Act”). Plaintiff alleges that she has been disabled since September 1, 2016, due to mental
and physical impairments. Plaintiff maintains that she is entitled to benefits because her
impairments render her unable to work.
Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income on October
28, 2016. After denial at the agency level, Plaintiff proceeded to a hearing before ALJ
Carl E. Stephan on May 14, 2019. At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was 42 years old,
with a 6th grade education, and had past relevant work as a home health aide. The ALJ
considered the case de novo and, on August 13, 2019, issued a written decision denying
Plaintiff’s application for benefits.
The Appeals Council thereafter denied Plaintiff’s
request for review on July 21, 2020.
1 In accordance with this district’s Standing Order of November 18, 2020, and consistent with guidance
from the Committee on Court Administration and Case Management of the Judicial Conference of the
United States, this Decision and Order identifies the plaintiff by first name and last initial only.
Case 1:20-cv-01243-WMS Document 18 Filed 05/05/22 Page 2 of 14
Plaintiff filed the current action on September 9, 2020, challenging the
Commissioner’s final decision. 2 After filing of the administrative record, the parties crossmoved for judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12 (c) of the Federal Rules of Civil
Procedure, with briefing concluded on March 3, 2022. (Docket Nos. 12-16.) The case
was thereafter reassigned here on April 4, 2022, at which time this Court took the motions
under advisement without oral argument. (Docket No. 17.) For the following reasons,
Plaintiff’s motion will be denied, and Defendant’s motion will be granted.
A party is entitled to judgment on the pleadings under Rule 12 (c) “only if it
has established that no material issue of fact remains to be resolved and that it is entitled
to judgment as a matter of law.” Juster Assocs. v. City of Rutland, 901 F.2d 266, 269 (2d
Cir. 1990) (internal quotation marks omitted). In social security appeals, the district court
may “enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming,
modifying, or reversing a decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without
remanding the case for a rehearing.” 42 U.S.C. § 1383 (c)(3).
A court reviewing a denial of disability benefits may not determine de novo
whether an individual is disabled. See 42 U.S.C. § 1383 (c)(3); Wagner v. Sec’y of Health
& Hum. Servs., 906 F.2d 856, 860 (2d Cir. 1990). Instead, the court’s inquiry is limited to
two issues: (1) whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards, and (2)
whether the Commissioner’s factual findings are supported by substantial evidence. See
Greek v. Colvin, 802 F.3d 370, 374-75 (2d Cir. 2015) (per curiam); see also Norman v.
Astrue, 912 F. Supp. 2d 33, 70 (S.D.N.Y. 2012) (“The Court first reviews the
Commissioner’s decision for compliance with the correct legal standards; only then does
The ALJ’s August 13, 2019 decision became the Commissioner’s final decision in this case when the
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request for review.
Case 1:20-cv-01243-WMS Document 18 Filed 05/05/22 Page 3 of 14
it determine whether the Commissioner’s conclusions were supported by substantial
evidence.”). In conducting this inquiry, the court cannot 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 & Hum. Servs., 733 F.2d 1037, 1041 (2d
Cir. 1984). Consequently, if the Commissioner’s determination is free from legal error
and supported by substantial evidence, the court must affirm. See Grey v. Heckler, 721
F.2d 41, 46 (2d Cir. 1983); Marcus v. Califano, 615 F.2d 23, 27 (2d Cir. 1979).
As it relates to the legal-error inquiry, the court must determine whether “the
claimant has had a full hearing under the [Commissioner’s] regulations and in accordance
with the beneficent purposes of the [Social Security] Act.” Moran v. Astrue, 569 F.3d 108,
112 (2d Cir. 2009) (internal quotations and citations omitted). “Failure to apply the correct
legal standard constitutes reversible error, including, in certain circumstances, failure to
adhere to the applicable regulations.” Kohler v. Astrue, 546 F.3d 260, 265 (2d Cir. 2008)
(citation omitted). This inquiry is completed first because “[w]here there is a reasonable
basis for doubt whether the ALJ applied correct legal principles, application of the
substantial evidence standard to uphold a finding of no disability creates an unacceptable
risk that a claimant will be deprived of the right to have her disability determination made
according to the correct legal principles.” Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d 983, 986 (2d Cir.
As it relates to the substantial-evidence inquiry, the standard is not high.
See Biestek v. Berryhill, __ U.S. __, 139 S. Ct. 1148, 1154, 203 L. Ed. 2d 504 (2019).
The United States Supreme Court defines substantial evidence as only “more than a mere
scintilla,” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S. Ct. 1420, 1427, 28 L. Ed. 2d
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842 (1971), and has clarified that “[i]t means—and means only—'such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion,’” Biestek, 139
S. Ct. at 1154 (quoting Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S 197, 229, 59 S. Ct. 206, 83
L. Ed. 126 (1938)).
Because the Commissioner’s factual findings are conclusive if
supported by substantial evidence, see 42 U.S.C. § 1383 (c)(3), review is properly
focused on whether substantial evidence supports the Commissioner’s determination, not
whether substantial evidence might also support the plaintiff’s position.
Zacharopoulos v. Saul, 516 F. Supp. 3d 211, 220 (E.D.N.Y. 2021) (noting that “the
relevant question is not whether substantial evidence supports plaintiff’s position, but
whether ‘substantial evidence supports the ALJ’s decision’”) (quoting Bonet ex rel. T.B.
v. Colvin, 523 F. App’x 58, 59 (2d Cir. 2013) (emphasis in original)). This is “a very
deferential standard of review—even more so than the ‘clearly erroneous’ standard.”
Brault v. Soc. Sec. Admin., Comm’r, 683 F.3d 443, 448 (2d Cir. 2012) (per curiam) (citing
Dickinson v. Zurko, 527 U.S. 150, 153, 119 S. Ct. 1816, 144 L. Ed. 2d 143 (1999)).
“To determine on appeal whether [the Commissioner’s] findings are
supported by substantial evidence, a reviewing court considers the whole record,
examining the evidence from both sides, because an analysis of the substantiality of the
evidence must also include that which detracts from its weight.” Williams on Behalf of
Williams v. Bowen, 859 F.2d 255, 258 (2d Cir. 1988).
If supported by substantial
evidence, the Commissioner's factual findings 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). Similarly, where evidence is deemed susceptible to
Case 1:20-cv-01243-WMS Document 18 Filed 05/05/22 Page 5 of 14
more than one rational interpretation, the Commissioner’s conclusion must be upheld.
See Rutherford v. Schweiker, 685 F.2d 60, 62 (2d Cir. 1982). In short, the substantialevidence standard requires that once an ALJ finds facts, those facts can be rejected “‘only
if a reasonable factfinder would have to conclude otherwise.’” Brault, 683 F.3d at 448
(quoting Warren v. Shalala, 29 F.3d 1287, 1290 (8th Cir. 1994) (emphasis in original)).
The Commissioner has established a five-step sequential evaluation
process to determine whether an individual is disabled under the Act. See 20 C.F.R. §
416.920. The Supreme Court recognized the validity of this analysis in Bowen v. Yuckert,
and it remains the proper approach for analyzing whether a claimant is disabled. 482
U.S. 137, 140-42, 107 S. Ct. 2287, 2291, 96 L. Ed. 2d 119 (1987).
The five-step process is as follows:
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 her 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 her
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, she has the residual functional capacity to
perform her past work. Finally, if the claimant is unable to
perform her 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) (per curiam) (quotations in original);
see also 20 C.F.R. § 416.920; Rosa v. Callahan, 168 F.3d 72, 77 (2d Cir. 1999).
Case 1:20-cv-01243-WMS Document 18 Filed 05/05/22 Page 6 of 14
The claimant has the burden of proof on the first four steps; the
Commissioner has the burden of proof on the fifth step. See Bowen, 482 U.S. at 146 n.5;
Ferraris v. Heckler, 728 F.2d 582, 584 (2d Cir. 1984). The fifth step is divided into two
First, the Commissioner must assess the claimant's job qualifications by
considering his or her physical ability, age, education, and work experience. Second, the
Commissioner must determine whether jobs exist in the national economy that a person
having the claimant's qualifications could perform. See 42 U.S.C. § 1383 (c)(1)(A); 20
C.F.R. § 416.920 (a)(4); Heckler v. Campbell, 461 U.S. 458, 460, 103 S. Ct. 1952, 1954,
76 L. Ed. 2d 66 (1983).
In this case, the ALJ found the following with regard to the five-step process
set forth above: (1) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October
28, 2016, the application date (R. at 47 3); (2) Plaintiff’s anxiety, depression, post-traumatic
stress disorder, and asthma were severe impairments within the meaning of the Act (R.
at 47-48); (3) Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
meet or medically equal any of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (R. at 47-49); (4) Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, but with certain non-exertional
limitations4 (R. at 50-53); (5) Plaintiff is unable to perform her past relevant work as a
home health aide (R. at 53-54); and, alternatively, (6) Plaintiff could perform jobs that exist
in significant number in the national economy (R. at 54-55).
Accordingly, the ALJ
Citations to the underlying administrative record are designated as “R.”
4 The non-exertional limitations consist of the following: “she must avoid concentrated respiratory irritants
and exposure to extremes in temperature and humidity; she is able to perform simple and complex tasks
involving occasional interaction with co-workers, supervisors, and the public; and she can adapt to
occasional changes in the work setting.” (R. at 50.)
Case 1:20-cv-01243-WMS Document 18 Filed 05/05/22 Page 7 of 14
determined that Plaintiff was not under a disability as defined by the Act from October 28,
2016, through August 13, 2019, the date of the decision. (R. at 46, 55.)
Plaintiff lodges two challenges to the ALJ’s decision. First, she argues that
the Appeals Council erred in failing to consider the records that she submitted on appeal.
Second, she challenges the ALJ’s consideration of the medical opinion evidence in
formulating her RFC. In response, the Commissioner argues that the ALJ’s decision is
supported by substantial evidence and free from legal error and should therefore be
affirmed. This Court agrees with the Commissioner.
Plaintiff’s first argument concerns her submission of new evidence to the
Appeals Council. She maintains that the Appeals Council erred in failing to consider the
June 1, 2020 opinion of Nurse Practitioner Jessica Matott on the basis that it did not relate
to the period at issue. (R. at 2, 13-14.) But given the posture here, the Appeals Council’s
determination need not be assessed. “Once evidence is added to the record, the Appeals
Council must then consider the entire record, including the new evidence, and review a
case if the ‘administrative law judge’s action, findings, or conclusion is contrary to the
weight of the evidence currently of record.’” Lesterhuis v. Colvin, 805 F.3d 83, 87 (2d Cir.
2015) (per curiam). If the Appeals Council denies review, such as in this case, the ALJ’s
decision, not the Appeals Council’s, is the final agency decision subject to further review,
and the new evidence submitted to the Appeals Council becomes part of the
administrative record on appeal. See id.; Perez v. Chater, 77 F.3d 41, 45 (2d Cir. 1996).
Having considered the entire record, including the evidence Plaintiff submitted to the
Appeals Council, this Court need not evaluate the Appeals Council’s determinations for
independent error. See Catoe v. Berryhill, 17-CV-86V, 2019 WL 483319, at *7 (W.D.N.Y.
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Feb. 7, 2019) (“Because the Appeals Council did not review the ALJ’s decision, however,
this Court does not review the determination of the Appeals Council.”).
Moreover, Plaintiff fails to establish persuasive grounds for this Court to
remand this action to the Appeals Council for express consideration of Matott’s opinion.
Remand to the Commissioner for consideration of additional evidence is appropriate “only
upon a showing that (1) the proffered evidence is new and not merely cumulative of what
is already in the record; (2) the evidence is material, that is, both relevant and probative,
such that there is a reasonable possibility that the new evidence would have influenced
the agency to decide differently; and (3) there was good cause for the claimant’s failure
to present the evidence earlier.” Ostrovsky v. Massanari, 83 F. App’x 354, 358 (2d Cir.
2003) (citing Tirado v. Bowen, 842 F.2d 595, 597 (2d Cir. 1988)). Here, Matott’s opinion
is not relevant because it does not pertain to Plaintiff’s condition during the time period
for which she sought benefits. See Tirado, 842 F.2d at 597 (defining material evidence,
in part, as “relevant to the claimant’s condition during the time period for which benefits
were denied”). Indeed, there is no indication that Matott’s opinion, issued after the ALJ’s
decision, is retrospective in any way or based on any longitudinal relationship or review
of Plaintiff’s medical file. Nor has Plaintiff persuasively established that consideration of
Matott’s opinion would have changed the ALJ’s decision. This argument is therefore
Plaintiff’s second argument is that her RFC is not supported by substantial
evidence because the ALJ failed to properly assess the medical opinion evidence,
including misapplying the treating-physician rule, and instead impermissibly based the
RFC on a non-examining opinion. RFC is “what an individual can still do despite his or
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her limitations.” Melville v. Apfel, 198 F.3d 45, 52 (2d Cir. 1999) (quoting SSR 96-8p,
1996 WL 374184, at *2). To properly determine RFC, the ALJ must assess all relevant
medical and other evidence in the record. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.945 (a)(1). Such evidence
includes, inter alia, objective medical evidence, medical opinions, medical history, clinical
findings, and the claimant’s own assessment of limitations. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.913
(a)(1)-(5); see also Josua S. v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 6:19-CV-1434 (ML), 2021 WL
105769, at *4 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 11, 2021) (“In rendering an RFC determination, the ALJ
must consider objective medical facts, diagnoses, and medical opinions based on such
facts, as well as a plaintiff’s subjective symptoms, including pain and descriptions of other
limitations.”) (collecting cases). All of this evidence must be considered in determining
RFC, “not just . . . the medical opinions alone.” Richard B. v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 1:19CV-579 (WBC), 2021 WL 22504, at *5 (W.D.N.Y. Jan. 4, 2021) (citing Trepanier v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 752 F. App’x 75, 79 (2d Cir. 2018)).
While the ALJ is precluded from substituting his or her own lay opinion for
competent medical evidence, the ALJ is nonetheless entitled to weigh all of the evidence,
resolve conflicts within it, and reach an RFC that is consistent with the record as a whole.
See Quinn v. Colvin, 199 F. Supp. 3d 692, 712 (W.D.N.Y. 2016). And the ALJ’s RFC
determination need neither track nor correspond perfectly with any single medical opinion.
Id. Finally, “[a]lthough the ALJ has the responsibility to determine the RFC based on all
the evidence in the record, the burden is on the Plaintiff to demonstrate functional
limitations that preclude any substantial gainful activity.” Richard B., 2021 WL 22504, at
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Here, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could perform the full range of work
at all exertional levels, with certain non-exertional limitations. (R. at 50-53.) Plaintiff first
maintains that this determination is not supported by substantial evidence because the
ALJ failed to apply the treating-physician rule to the opinion of her primary physician, Ellis
Gomez, M.D. For claims filed before March 27, 2017, such as this one, the treatingphysician rule requires that an ALJ give controlling weight to a treating source's opinion
on the issues of the nature and severity of a claimant's impairments, if the opinion is wellsupported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is
not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence in the record. 5 See 20 C.F.R. §
416.927 (c)(2); Halloran v. Barnhart, 362 F.3d 28, 32 (2d Cir. 2004). If the ALJ does not
give controlling weight to a treating source's opinion, he or she must apply several factors
to determine what weight to afford the opinion, which include:
(1) the length of the treatment relationship and the frequency
of examination; (2) the nature and extent of the treatment
relationship; (3) the degree to which the medical source
supported his opinion; (4) the degree of consistency between
the opinion and the record as a whole; (5) whether the opinion
is given by a specialist; and (6) other evidence which may be
brought to the attention of the ALJ.
Morrillo v. Apfel, 150 F. Supp. 2d 540, 545-46 (S.D.N.Y. 2001); see also Selian v. Astrue,
708 F.3d 409, 418 (2d Cir. 2018); 20 C.F.R. § 416.927 (c).
But as this Court has previously recognized, an ALJ “does not have to
explicitly walk through these factors, so long as the Court can ‘conclude that the ALJ
applied the substance of the treating physician rule . . . and provide[d] ‘good reasons’ for
the weight [the ALJ] gives to the treating source's opinion.’” Hall v. Colvin, 37 F. Supp.
For claims filed on or after March 27, 2017, the Commissioner evaluates medical opinion evidence under
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520c, 416.920c.
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3d 614, 625 (W.D.N.Y. 2014) (quoting Halloran, 362 F.3d at 32); see Atwater v. Astrue,
512 F. App'x 67, 70 (2d Cir. 2013) (explaining that the ALJ need not undertake a “slavish
recitation of each and every factor where the ALJ's reasoning and adherence to the
regulation are clear”). If the ALJ rejects the treating physician’s opinion as controlling, he
or she must have “good reasons” for doing so and must explain those reasons to the
claimant. 20 C.F.R. § 416.927 (c)(2); accord Schaal v. Apfel, 134 F.3d 496, 503-04 (2d
Dr. Gomez opined that Plaintiff could not work because (1) she could not
be around people, (2) she suffered flash-backs due to her past trauma, and (3) she was
irritable, had low energy, and poor concentration. (R. at 1172.) He also observed that
Plaintiff could not leave her house most days “due to her fear.” (R. at 1664.)
The ALJ did not assign Dr. Gomez’s opinion any “meaningful weight.” (R.
at 52.) While he recognized Dr. Gomez as Plaintiff’s treating physician, he discounted
his opinion because he found it entirely inconsistent with the medical record. Id. In
particular, the ALJ explained his findings that “[Dr. Gomez’s] assessments are directly
contradicted by the medical record, including claimant’s own statements that her mental
health symptoms are moderate; the fact that claimant frequently leaves her home to
attend the medical appointments documented in the extensive record; and the fact that
claimant has taken at least four trips outside of the continental United States during the
relevant period.” (R. at 52.)
Plaintiff maintains that the above are not “good reasons” for the ALJ to reject
her treating physician’s opinion. She argues that she should not be faulted for attending
medical appointments and that she only left the country to visit her ill mother. But while
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Plaintiff undoubtedly would have liked the ALJ to view the evidence more in her favor, for
example by crediting her explanation for why she traveled outside of the country, it is
nonetheless the ALJ’s job to weigh and resolve the evidence. Here, trips out of the home
was just part of the ALJ’s reason for discounting Dr. Gomez’s opinion. (R. at 52.) He
also found the opinion inconsistent with the record evidence, which he had previously
canvassed, including that Plaintiff’s mental health symptoms had been stabilized through
a conservative course of treatment and that Plaintiff herself described her mental health
symptoms as “moderate.” (R. at 51.) In any event, the weighing and crediting of
conflicting evidence is the province of the ALJ, not this Court. See Krull v. Colvin, 669 F.
App’x 31, 32 (2d Cir. 2016) (noting that the deferential standard of review prohibits a
reweighing of the evidence); see also Richardson, 402 U.S. at 399 (finding that it is the
ALJ’s task to weigh and resolve conflicting evidence in the record). Finding no error in
the ALJ’s treatment of Dr. Gomez’s opinion, Plaintiff’s argument is rejected. 6
Plaintiff next maintains that the ALJ improperly based the RFC entirely on
the opinion of Dr. G. Kleinerman, a non-examining physician whose opinion was stale
because it was rendered early in the relevant period. This argument fails for several
reasons. First, it is not accurate to say that the ALJ’s RFC determination is based
exclusively on Dr. Kleinerman’s opinion.
Rather, the decision reflects the ALJ’s
consideration of the objective medical evidence, medical opinions, medical history,
6 Plaintiff also argues that the ALJ similarly failed to articulate sufficient reasons for giving “little weight” to
the opinions of Nurse Practitioner Faye Taber and Social Worker Ana Lucia Shatah. (R. at 52.) But here
again, Plaintiff’s arguments essentially seek a reweighing of the record evidence in her favor. This Court
has reviewed the ALJ’s discussion and treatment of the Taber and Shatah opinions and finds that his
decision to afford those opinions little weight is sufficiently explained and supported by substantial evidence
in the record. Id.
Case 1:20-cv-01243-WMS Document 18 Filed 05/05/22 Page 13 of 14
clinical findings, and Plaintiff’s own assessment of her limitations, as required. See 20
C.F.R. § 416.913 (a)(1)-(5); see also Josua S., 2021 WL 105769, at *4.
Second, “an ALJ is free to give great weight to the opinion of a non-
examining medical expert as long as their opinions are supported by substantial
evidence.” Cruz v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., No. 16-CV-965, 2018 WL 3628253, at *6
(W.D.N.Y. July 31, 2018); see also Frye ex rel. A.O. v. Astrue, 485 F. App’x 484, 487 (2d
Cir. 2012) (“The report of a State agency medical consultant constitutes expert opinion
evidence which can be given weight if supported by medical evidence in the record.”);
Hancock v. Barnhart, 308 F. App’x 520, 521 (2d Cir. 2009).
Here, Dr. Kleinerman is an
acceptable medical source with program knowledge and is fully familiar with the social
security rules and regulations. He reviewed the record as developed at the time, and
Plaintiff does not maintain that his findings are unsupported by substantial evidence.
And finally, Dr. Kleinerman’s opinion is not stale simply because it was
rendered early in the relevant time period. An opinion may be stale if it is based on an
incomplete record or does not account for a claimant’s deteriorating condition. See Biro
v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 335 F. Supp. 3d 464, 469-70 (W.D.N.Y. 2018). But “a medical
opinion is not necessarily stale simply based on its age.” Id. at 470. An older opinion
may thus constitute substantial evidence if it is consistent with the record as a
whole. See id.; see also Andrews v. Berryhill, No. 17-CV-6368 (MAT), 2018 WL
2088064, at *3 (W.D.N.Y. May 4, 2018) (finding that ALJ did not err by relying on older
opinions where there was no evidence of significant deterioration in the plaintiff’s
condition). Here, there is no argument that Dr. Kleinerman’s opinion is unsupported by
substantial evidence and no persuasive showing that subsequent objective medical
Case 1:20-cv-01243-WMS Document 18 Filed 05/05/22 Page 14 of 14
evidence rendered it unreliable due to a significant deterioration in Plaintiff’s condition.
This argument is therefore rejected.
Accordingly, having reviewed the ALJ’s decision in light of Plaintiff’s
arguments, this Court finds that it is free from legal error and supported by substantial
evidence. It is therefore affirmed. See Grey, 721 F.2d at 46; Marcus, 615 F.2d at 27.
Plaintiff’s motion for judgment on the pleadings is denied, and Defendant’s motion
seeking the same relief is granted.
IT HEREBY IS ORDERED, that Plaintiff’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings
(Docket No. 14) is DENIED.
FURTHER, that Defendant’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (Docket No.
15) is GRANTED.
FURTHER, that the Clerk of Court is directed to CLOSE this case.
May 5, 2022
Buffalo, New York
s/WIlliam M. Skretny
WILLIAM M. SKRETNY
United States District Judge
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