United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON PENDING MOTIONS
WILLIAM I. GARFINKEL United States Magistrate Judge
an administrative appeal following the denial of the
plaintiff, Soraida Vasquez's, application for Title II
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and Title
XVI supplemental security income benefits
(“SSI”). It is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
now moves for an order reversing the decision of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”), or in the alternative, an order
remanding her case for a rehearing. [Doc. # 18]. The
Commissioner, in turn, has moved for an order affirming her
decision. [Doc. # 25]. The undersigned heard oral argument on
February 7, 2018.For the following reasons, Plaintiff's
motion for an order reversing or remanding the ALJ's
decision is granted, and the Commissioner's motion for an
order affirming that decision is denied.
district court reviewing a final . . . decision [of the
Commissioner of Social Security] pursuant to section 205(g)
of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), is
performing an appellate function.” Zambrana v.
Califano, 651 F.2d 842 (2d Cir. 1981). “The
findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any
fact, if supported by substantial evidence, [are] conclusive
. . . .” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Accordingly, the
district court may not make a de novo determination
of whether a plaintiff is disabled in reviewing a denial of
disability benefits. Id.; Wagner v. Sec'y of
Health & Human Servs., 906 F.2d 856, 860 (2d Cir.
1990). Rather, the court's function is to first ascertain
whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal principles
in reaching her conclusion, and then whether the decision is
supported by substantial evidence. Johnson v. Bowen,
817 F.2d 983, 985 (2d Cir. 1987). Therefore, absent legal
error, a decision of the Commissioner cannot be set aside if
it is supported by substantial evidence. Berry v.
Schweiker, 675 F.2d 464, 467 (2d Cir. 1982). Further, if
the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence, that decision will be sustained, even where there
may also be substantial evidence to support the
plaintiff's contrary position. Schauer v.
Schweiker, 675 F.2d 55, 57 (2d Cir. 1982).
evidence is “‘such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.'” Williams v. Bowen, 859 F.2d
255, 258 (2d Cir. 1988) (quoting Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). Substantial evidence
must be “more than a scintilla or touch of proof here
and there in the record.” Williams, 859 F.2d
filed her applications for DIB and SSI on November 16, 2012,
alleging a disability onset date of March 22, 2011. Her
claims were denied at both the initial and reconsideration
levels. Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a hearing. On May 13,
2015, a hearing was held before administrative law judge
Jason Mastrangelo (the “ALJ”). On June 3, 2015,
the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's claims. The
Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's unfavorable
decision. This action followed.
was 47 years old on the date of the hearing before the ALJ.
(R. 57). She has a high school education and past work
experience as a home health aide, assembly machine operator,
and certified nursing assistant. At oral argument, the
parties stipulated to Plaintiff's medical history as set
forth collectively in the briefing. The Court adopts the
medical chronology as represented and incorporates it by
The ALJ's Decision
followed the sequential evaluation process for assessing
disability claims. At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the
alleged onset date. (R. 26). At step two, the ALJ found the
following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of
the cervical spine; partial left rotator cuff tear;
degenerative joint disease. (R. 26). At step three, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments. (R. 28). Next, the
ALJ determined Plaintiff retains the following residual
Plaintiff can perform less than the full range of light work:
she can lift and/or carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10
pounds frequently. She can sit for 6 hours and stand or walk
for 6 hours in an 8 hour workday. She cannot reach overhead
with the non-dominant left upper extremity, may occasionally
reach overhead with the right dominant upper extremity, and
may occasionally operate hand controls bilaterally. ...