United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REVERSE
AND/OR REMAND AND THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO AFFIRM THE
DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER
A. RICHARDSON, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Cummings (“plaintiff”), appeals the final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“the
Commissioner”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The
Commissioner denied plaintiff's application for Social
Security Disability Benefits in a decision dated August 25,
2015. (R. 19.). Plaintiff moves for an order reversing the
decision, or in the alternative, remanding his case for
rehearing. (Dkt. #16.) The Commissioner, in turn, has moved
for an order affirming the decision. (Dkt. #17.)
reasons that follow, plaintiff's motion to reverse, or in
the alternative, remand is GRANTED. The Commissioner's
motion to affirm is DENIED.
HISTORY AND BACKGROUND
29, 2013, plaintiff filed an application for disability
benefits, alleging disability beginning February 5, 2010. The
claim was initially denied on December 11, 2013, and again
denied on reconsideration on March 26, 2014. On May 1, 2014,
plaintiff filed a written request for an administrative
hearing. An oral hearing on the matter was held on June 8,
2015 before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
Matthew Kuperstein. On August 28, 2015, ALJ Kuperstein issued
a decision which held that the plaintiff was not disabled
within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Plaintiff
timely requested review by the Office of Disability
Adjudication and Review Appeals Council. Plaintiff's
request was denied on June 16, 2016. This appeal followed.
instructed by the Court, the parties entered a joint
stipulation of facts on February 22, 2017, which is
incorporated herein by reference. (Dkt. #16-2.)
the Social Security Act, an individual who is disabled within
the meaning of the Act is entitled to benefits. 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(a)(1). The Act defines “disability” as
the “inability 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. §
Social Security regulations set forth a five-step sequential
evaluation for adjudicating claims for disability insurance
benefits and supplemental security income:
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 h[er] 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.
Rivera v. Schweiker, 717 F.2d 719, 722 (2d Cir.
1983); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The burden of
proof is on the claimant through the first four steps, while
the Commissioner bears the burden of proof at the fifth step.
Kohler v. Astrue, 546 F.3d 260, 265 (2d Cir. 2008).
Court's review of the Commissioner's decision is
limited in scope. Specifically, “findings of the
Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported
by substantial evidence, [are] conclusive . . . .” 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). Therefore, this Court may set aside a
determination “only if the factual findings are not
supported by ‘substantial evidence' or if the
decision is based on legal error.” Burgess v.
Astrue, 537 F.3d 117, 127 (2d Cir. 2008). Substantial
evidence is “more than a mere scintilla” and
“means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Id.; Greek v. Colvin, 802 F.3d 370, 375 (2d
Cir. 2015)(citing Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971).
substituting a court's judgment for that of the
Commissioner, review of administrative decisions is intended
“to ensure a just and rational result between the
government and the claimant . . . .” Williams v.
Bowen, 859 F.2d 255, 258 (2d Cir. 1988). To that end,
the court seeks to find substantial evidence to support the
Commissioner's decision through plenary review of the
administrative record. Ibid. If substantial evidence is
found, even where there may also be substantial evidence to
support the plaintiff's contrary position, the