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, Shirley Lois Herren'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. # 16]. The
Commissioner, in turn, has moved for an order affirming her
decision. [Doc. # 17]. For the reasons discussed below,
Plaintiff's motion is granted and the Commissioner's
motion 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 December 3, 2012,
alleging a disability onset date of May 15, 2012. Her claims
were denied at both the initial and reconsideration levels.
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a hearing. On December 4,
2014, a hearing was held before administrative law judge
Ronald J. Thomas (“the ALJ”). On February 27,
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 30 years old on the date of the hearing before the ALJ.
(R. 38). At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was living in
an inpatient treatment facility. (Id.). She has a
high school education. (R. 40-41). Plaintiff last worked in
May 2012 as a waitress. (R. 41). She has additional past work
experience as front desk agent at several hotels.
(Id.). Plaintiff is alleging disability based on
both physical and mental impairments. The parties have
stipulated to Plaintiff's medical chronology as set forth
in Doc. # 16-2. The Court adopts this medical chronology and
incorporates it by reference herein.
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. 20). At step two, the ALJ found the
following severe impairments: depressive disorder; anxiety
disorder; polysubstance abuse in remission; lower back pain;
bilateral foot pain. (Id.). 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. 20-21). Next,
the ALJ determined Plaintiff retains the following residual
Plaintiff can perform sedentary work except she is limited to
performing simple, routine, repetitious work with only
occasional interaction with the public, co-workers, and
supervisors. She is further limited to only occasional
bending, twisting, squatting, kneeling, crawling, climbing,
and balancing. She cannot operate foot controls bilaterally.
(R. 21-26). At step four, the ALJ found Plaintiff was unable
to perform her past work. (R. 26). Finally, at step five, the
ALJ relied on the testimony of a vocational expert
(“VE”) to find that there are jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
can perform. (R. 26-27). Specifically, the VE testified that
the person with the assessed RFC could perform the positions