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, Leslie Murillo'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. # 17]. The
Commissioner, in turn, has moved for an order affirming her
decision. [Doc. # 20]. For the reasons set forth 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 April 11, 2012,
alleging a disability onset date of February 1, 2011. Her
claims were denied at both the initial and reconsideration
levels. Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a hearing. On July
15, 2014, a hearing was held before administrative law judge
Ronald J. Thomas (the “ALJ”). On October 28,
2014, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's
claims. The Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's
unfavorable decision. This action followed.
was forty-eight years old on the alleged onset date. She has
a high school education and past work experience as a
nurse's aide and fast food restaurant manager. She last
worked in 2010 as a home health aide. Plaintiff's medical
history is set forth in the Joint Medical Chronology the
parties filed. [Doc. # 27]. The Court adopts this medical
chronology as represented and incorporates it by reference
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. 15). At Step Two, the ALJ found the
following severe impairments: mood disorder; anxiety
disorder; fibromyalgia; narcolepsy without cataplexy;
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine associated with
myofascial pain; osteoarthritis of the right knee. (R. 15).
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. 16). Next, the ALJ determined Plaintiff
retains the following residual functional
Plaintiff can perform light work except she is limited to
only occasional interaction with the public, coworkers, and
supervisions; she can perform work in a supervised, low
stress environment requiring few decisions; she has
occasional limitations with bending, stooping, twisting,
squatting, kneeling, crawling, balancing, and climbing.
(R. 18). At Step Four, the ALJ found Plaintiff was unable to
perform her past relevant work. (R. 27). Finally, at Step
Five, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a vocational expert
in finding there are jobs existing in significant numbers in
the national economy Plaintiff can perform. (R. 28).
Specifically, a person with Plaintiff's RFC and
vocational factors would be able to perform the positions of
small products assembler, ...