United States District Court, D. Connecticut
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON THE MOTION FOR ORDER
REVERSING COMMISSIONER'S DECISION AND THE MOTION TO
AFFIRM THE FINAL DECISION
W. Eginton Senior United States District Judge
Daniel Cote challenges the denial of his application for
Social Security disability benefits and requests reversal of
the Commissioner's decision pursuant to sentence four of
42 U.S.C § 405(g). For the following reasons,
plaintiff's motion for order reversing the
Commissioner's decision will be granted to the extent
that the matter will be remanded pursuant to sentence six of
section 405(g); defendant's motion to affirm the
decision of the Commissioner will be denied.
parties have filed statements of facts that detail
plaintiff's medical history from November 12, 2008, prior
to his disability onset, through August 25, 2015, prior to
his disability onset date of September 14, 2011, through
August 25, 2015. The parties do not contest the factual
statements of plaintiff's medical history.
was born on October 12, 1964. He filed a claim for disability
insurance benefits on March 12, 2013, alleging disability
onset on September 14, 2011. His claim was denied on August
7, 2013, and upon reconsideration on November 27, 2013. Upon
his request, a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) was held on January 20, 2014. In a
decision dated May 29, 2015, the ALJ denied plaintiff's
claim for disability benefits. On December 7, 2016, the
Appeals Council denied the request for review.
found that plaintiff had medically determinable and
“severe” impairments of ischemic heart disease,
atrial fibrillation, panic disorder, and alcohol abuse in
early remission. She found that plaintiff had non-severe
impairments of hypertension, diabetes mellitus, obstructive
sleep apnea, retinopathy, cataracts and cirrhosis. She found
that plaintiff was not “disabled” because he did
not have an impairment or combination thereof that meets or
medically equals a “listed impairment.” She
determined that plaintiff had residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform “light work as defined
in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), with the exception of
frequent balancing, stooping kneeling crouching and climbing
of ramps and stairs. She found that plaintiff is limited to
occasional crawling and never climbing ladders, ropes or
scaffolds; is limited to avoiding concentrated exposure to
heat, cold and vibrations; is limited to occasional exposure
to unprotected heights and dangerous moving machinery; can
operate and drive motor vehicles with corrective lenses; and
is limited to simple, routine tasks involving no more than
simple, short instructions and simple, work-related decisions
with few work place changes. She found that he could perform
his past work as an assembly line worker, and alternatively,
he was capable of finding work that existed in the national
reviewing a final decision of the Commissioner under 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c), the district court
performs an appellate function. Zambrana v.
Califano, 651 F.2d 842, 844 (2d Cir. 1981); Igonia
v. Califano, 568 F.2d 1383, 1387 (D.C. Cir. 1977). A
reviewing court will “set aside the ALJ's decision
only where it is based upon legal error or is not supported
by substantial evidence.” Balsamo v. Chater,
142 F.3d 75, 79 (2d Cir. 1998). See also Alston v.
Sullivan, 904 F.2d 122, 126 (2d Cir. 1990)(“As a
general matter, when we review a decision denying benefits
under the Act, we must regard the [Commissioner's]
factual determinations as conclusive unless they are
unsupported by substantial evidence”).
“Substantial evidence” is less than a
preponderance, but “more than a scintilla.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).
Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S.
197, 229 (1938); see Yancey v. Apfel, 145 F.3d 106,
110 (2d Cir. 1998); Williams v. Bowen, 859 F.2d 255,
258 (2d Cir. 1988).
determining whether the evidence is substantial, the court
must “take into account whatever in the record fairly
detracts from its weight.” Universal Camera Corp.
v. NLRB, 340 U.S. 474, 488 (1951). In so doing, the
Court must “review the record as a whole.”
New York v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs.,
903 F.2d 122, 126 (2d Cir. 1990). The ALJ need not
“reconcile every conflicting shred of medical
testimony.” Miles v. Harris, 645 F.2d 122, 124
regulations promulgated by the Commissioner establish a
five-step analysis for evaluating disability claims.
Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-142 (1987); 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520 and 416.920. First, the
Commissioner considers if the claimant is, at present,
working in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(I). If not, the Commissioner next considers if
the claimant has a medically severe impairment. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(a)(4)(ii). If the severity requirement is met,
the third inquiry is whether the impairment is listed in
Appendix 1 of the regulations or is equal to a listed
impairment. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii); Pt. 404,
Subpt. P. App. 1. If so, the disability is granted. If not,
the fourth inquiry is to determine whether, despite the
severe impairment, the claimant's residual functional
capacity allows him to perform any past work. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If a claimant demonstrates that no
past work can be performed, it then becomes incumbent upon
the Commissioner to come forward with evidence that
substantial gainful alternative employment exists which the
claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform. 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v). If the Commissioner fails to
come forward with such evidence, the claimant is entitled to
disability benefits. Alston, 904 F.2d at 126.
the reviewing court has “no apparent basis to conclude
that a more complete record might support the
Commissioner's decision, ” it may remand for the
sole purpose of calculating benefits. Butts v.
Barnhart, 399 F.3d 277, 385-86 (2d Cir. 2004). However,
the reviewing court may remand the matter to allow the ALJ to
further develop the record, make more specific findings, or
clarify his or her rationale. See Grace v. Astrue,
2013 WL 4010271, at *14 (S.D.N.Y.); see also Butts,
399 F.3d at 385- 86.
challenges the denial on the grounds that the ALJ failed to
develop the record to determine plaintiff's residual
functional capacity (“RFC”); erred in her
evaluation of the evidence; and made a flawed vocational
maintains that the ALJ should have obtained the medical
source statements from plaintiff's gastroenterologist
(Dr. Mario Ricci), cardiologist (Dr. Joseph Corning), primary
care physician (Dr. Michael Kalinowski), and the surgeon who
performed the hernia surgery in June 2011 (Dr. Peter Romeyn),
prior to the alleged disability onset date. Defendant
counters that the medical source statements were not
necessary because the medical record was ...