United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S
W. Thompson United States District Judge.
Brandon Thomas Hill has appealed under § 205(g) of the
Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a
final Decision by the Commissioner denying his application
for disability insurance benefits. The plaintiff has filed a
motion for reversal or remand, and the Commissioner has filed
a motion for an order affirming the Commissioner's
Decision. For the reasons set forth below, the court
concludes that the findings by the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) are supported by substantial evidence,
and the Commissioner's final Decision should be 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.§ 405(g), is
performing an appellate function.” Zambrana v.
Califano, 651 F.2d 842, 844 (2d Cir. 1981). The court
may not make a de novo determination of whether a plaintiff
is disabled in reviewing a denial of disability benefits.
See Wagner v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 906 F.2d 856, 860 (2d Cir. 1990). Rather, the
court's function is to ascertain whether the Commissioner
applied the correct legal principles in reaching a conclusion
and whether the Decision is supported by substantial
evidence. See Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d 983, 985
(2d Cir. 1987). The Second Circuit has defined substantial
evidence as “‘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 mere scintilla or touch of proof
here and there in the record.” Williams, 859 F.2d at
258. Therefore, absent legal error, this court may not set
aside the Decision of the Commissioner if it is supported by
substantial evidence. See Berry v. Schweiker, 675
F.2d 464, 467 (2d Cir. 1982); 42 U.S.C. §
405(g)(“The findings of the Commissioner of Social
Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive . . . .”). 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. See Schauer v.
Schweiker, 675 F.2d 55, 57 (2d Cir. 1982).
20, 2012, the plaintiff filed an application for a period of
disability and disability insurance benefits, alleging
disability beginning April 9, 2011. The plaintiff appeared
telephonically and testified at a hearing on May 5, 2014. On
August 28, 2014, the ALJ issued the Decision concluding that
the claimant was not disabled.
Two the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has a
medically determinable impairment that is
“severe” or a combination of impairments that is
“severe”. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). An
impairment or combination of impairments is
“severe” within the meaning of the regulations if
it significantly limits an individual's ability to
perform basic work activities. SSR 96-3p.
Two the ALJ found that the plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: “persistent somatoform disorder and
schizophrenic, paranoid, and other functional psychotic
disorder-delusional disorder, somatic type rule out.”
R. at 42. The plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by not
concluding that the plaintiff had a severe impairment in the
form of a chemical hypersensitivity or Multiple Chemical
framework for her analysis on this issue the ALJ followed the
guidance from SSR 96-4p, which includes the following:
Although the regulations provide that the existence of a
medically determinable physical or mental impairment must be
established by medical evidence consisting of signs,
symptoms, and laboratory findings, the regulations further
provide that under no circumstances may the existence of
impairment be established on the basis of symptoms alone.
Thus, regardless of how many symptoms an individual alleges,
or how genuine the individual's complaints may appear to
be, the existence of a medically determinable physical or
mental impairment cannot be established in the absence of
objective medical abnormalities; i.e., medical signs and
laboratory findings (SSR 96-4p).
No symptoms or combinations of symptoms by itself can
constitute a medically determinable impairment. In claims in
which there are no medical signs or laboratory findings to
substantiate the existence of a medically determinable
physical or mental impairment, the individual must be found
not disabled at step 2 of the sequential evaluation process
R. at 43.
record shows that the plaintiff had a disability evaluation
on April 3, 2012. The examination was conducted by Dr. Ronald
S. Jolda, who stated: “He has a self diagnosed chemical
sensitivity syndrome. He has never had an evaluation work up.
He is going to see a doctor in two days for a full workup of
this problem.” R. at 558.
April 6, 2012 the plaintiff saw Dr. David C. Christiani, but
he did not get a “full workup”. Dr.
Christiani's notes reflect that “[t]he patient has
not been formally diagnosed by a physician to have this
syndrome but strongly feels that he does based on his history
and symptom complex. He provided a detailed summary of his
history.” R. at 563. Dr. Christiani's assessment
was that the plaintiff met the criteria for multiple chemical
sensitivity, but Dr. Christiani's assessment was based on
the plaintiff's self-reported symptoms. Subsequently Dr.
Christiani issued a letter, dated November 14, 2013, in which
he opined that the plaintiff suffered from
“environmental intolerance, also termed multiple