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, Keith Wayne Fuller's, application for Title II
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). It is
brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
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 his case for a rehearing. [Doc. # 19]. The
Commissioner, in turn, has moved for an order affirming her
decision. [Doc. # 23]. The Undersigned heard oral argument on
these motions on March 15, 2018. For the reasons discussed
below, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed.
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 his DIB application on January 25, 2013, alleging a
disability onset date of December 2, 2011. His claim were
denied at both the initial and reconsideration levels.
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a hearing. On February 18,
2015, a hearing was held before administrative law judge
Robert A. DiBiccaro (the “ALJ”). On August 25,
2015, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's
claim. The Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's
unfavorable decision. This action followed.
was sixty-two years old on the date of the hearing before the
ALJ. (R. 44). He has a bachelor's degree and has
completed some graduate-level work. (R. 46). Plaintiff has
past work experience as a community counselor and a
vocational counselor. (R. 47, 57). He last worked in May
2011; he lost his job when his employer downsized. (R. 432).
During the relevant period, Plaintiff primarily underwent
holistic treatment methods (specifically osteopathic
manipulative treatment (“OMT”)). (R. 65-66).
Plaintiff's complete medical history is set forth in the
Stipulation of Facts the parties filed. [Doc. # 19-2]. The
Court adopts this Stipulation 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
has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the
alleged onset date. (R. 25-26). At Step Two, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff has medically determinable impairments,
that he does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that was severe. (R. 26-32). Thus, the ALJ ended
the evaluation at the second step and found Plaintiff not
concluded that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that significantly limits the
ability to perform basic work-related activities. In other
words, the ALJ determined that ...