United States District Court, D. Connecticut
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
W. EGINTON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter is before the court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g) to review the decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security denying the application of claimant Jeanette Gay for
Title II disability insurance benefits. Claimant has moved
for an order reversing the decision of the Commissioner for
the reason that said decision is not supported by substantial
evidence. Claimant has moved in the alternative to remand the
case for a hearing because errors committed by the ALJ
prevented claimant from receiving a full and fair hearing.
The Commissioner has moved for an order affirming the final
decision of the Commissioner for the reason that the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
February 28, 2013, claimant filed an application for
disability benefits, alleging disability beginning January
23, 2012. The claim was denied on May 3, 2013, and again upon
reconsideration on October 2, 2013. Claimant appeared
represented by her attorney at a hearing before ALJ Robert A.
DiBiccaro on November 7, 2014. The ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision on March 27, 2015, and the Appeals Council denied
claimant's request for review, rendering the ALJ's
decision final. This action followed.
court's review is limited to whether the findings of the
Commissioner are based on correct legal standards and
supported by substantial evidence. Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). Substantial evidence
is such that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion. Id.
is determined based upon the five-step sequential evaluation
process described in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (2012). The
burden rests with the claimant through the first four steps
but shifts to the Commissioner at step five. Berry v.
Schweiker, 675 F.2d 464, 467 (2d Cir. 1982). First, the
claimant must prove that she is not currently engaged in
substantial gainful activity. Second, the claimant must prove
her impairment is severe in that it significantly limits her
physical or mental ability to do basic work activities.
Third, if the claimant proves that her impairments meet or
equal one of the impairments listed at 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, App. 1, she will be determined disabled. Fourth,
if not determined disabled at step three, the claimant must
prove that she is not capable of meeting the physical or
mental demands of her past relevant work. If the claimant is
successful at step four, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner at step five to prove that the claimant is
capable of performing other work in light of her age,
education, work experience, and residual functional capacity.
If the claimant is not capable of making an adjustment to
other work, she will be determined disabled. See 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520.
Step Three Listed Impairment: Hidradenitis
asserts that her skin disorder meets a listed impairment at
step three. Claimant argues that she meets listing impairment
8.06 under App. 1 to Subpart P of Part 404:
“Hidradenitis suppurativa, with extensive skin lesions
involving both axillae, both inguinal areas or the perineum
that persist for at least 3 months despite continuing
treatment as prescribed.” Claimant contends that the
evaluation of her case should have ended at step three, where
she should have been granted benefits.
Commissioner responds that the ALJ specifically considered
the listing for hidradenitis suppurativa. In addition to
finding that claimant's skin lesions were insufficiently
persistent, the ALJ found that claimant's lesions, when
present, did not cause a “very serious
limitation” as required to meet Listing 8.06. Examples
of extensive skin lesions that result in a very serious
limitation include but are not limited to lesions that very
seriously limit the use of more than one extremity, lesions
on the palms of both hands that very seriously limit the
ability to do fine and gross motor movements, and lesions on
the soles of both feet, the perineum, or both inguinal areas
that very seriously limit the ability to ambulate.
See 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, App'x 1,
the ALJ found that claimant's physical examinations with
her treating physician, Dr. Perlin, were essentially normal
with no limitations noted. Dr. Perlin repeatedly observed
that claimant had normal gait, full strength and tone in her
upper and lower extremities, and normal reflexes. Moreover,
claimant reported to her rheumatologist that she worked out
daily and informed SSA that she regularly attended computer
classes. The ALJ found claimant's statements concerning
the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of her
symptoms to be only partially credible. In its totality, the
evidence affords a reasonable basis for the ALJ's finding
that claimant's lesions did not cause a very serious
limitation. Accordingly, the conclusion of the Commissioner
that claimant's hidradenitis suppurativa was not severe
enough to meet Listing 8.06 was supported by substantial
Residual Functional Capacity Assessment and Vocational
Claimant asserts that the ALJ failed to include the effect of
her pain as part of her residual functional capacity
evaluation. In addition, claimant contends that the ALJ
should have considered her limited use of her right hand and
her use of a prescription four-pronged cane.
argues that the ALJ was required to secure testimony from a
vocational expert in light of claimant's significant
nonexertional limitations. See Bapp v. Bowen, 802
F.2d 601, 605 (2d Cir. 1986) (finding that if a
claimant's nonexertional impairments significantly limit
the range of work permitted by her exertional limitations,
the grid guidelines may be insufficient, and testimony from a
vocational expert may be necessary). Claimant submits that in
addition to her general pain limitations, she has trouble
remaining seated, which erodes her ability to perform
sedentary work. Claimant argues that her hand use problems
and need for a cane constitute further nonexertional
impairments and ...