United States District Court, D. Connecticut
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON THE MOTION TO REVERSE THE
DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER AND MOTION FOR AN ORDER
AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S DECISION
W. Eginton Senior United States District Judge
Darla Marie Clark challenges the denial of her application
for Social Security disability benefits and requests reversal
of the Commissioner's decision pursuant to sentence four
or six of 42 U.S.C § 405(g). Defendant has filed a
motion to affirm the Commissioner's Decision. For the
following reasons, the Court will grant plaintiff's
motion to reverse the decision of the Commissioner, and deny
defendant's motion for an order affirming the
parties have not submitted a stipulated statement of facts.
However, defendant has provided a statement of facts, and
plaintiff has had the opportunity to respond thereto. The
Court will incorporate facts as reflected by record into this
was born in 1960. She filed an application for disability
insurance benefits on October 7, 2013, alleging disability
commencing September 19, 2013. Her application was denied,
and then upon reconsideration, it was again denied. Plaintiff
requested a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ"). After the hearing, the ALJ issued a
decision, finding that plaintiff was not disabled within the
meaning of the Social Security Act. Specifically, the ALJ
found that plaintiff had a severe impairment of degenerative
disc disease, but that the impairment did not meet or
medically equal one of the impairments listed in Appendix 1
of the regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii); Pt.
404, Subpt. P. App. 1. The ALJ determined that plaintiff
retained the Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC")
to perform light work consistent with 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(b) with certain restrictions. With the assistance of
a vocational expert, the ALJ found that plaintiff could
perform her past relevant work of Cashier or Checker,
Procurement Clerk, or Injection Mold Machine Tender.
requested Appeals Council review. On May 26, 2017, the
Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review.
ALJ's decision stated: "There is objective evidence
in the medical record of impairments that are non-severe in
that such impairments establish only a slight abnomality or
combination of thereof that would have no more than a minimal
effect on the claimant's ability to meet the basic
demands of work activity." The ALJ concluded that
"the light residual functional capacity with the
additionally noted limitations adequately accounts for the
claimant's degenerative disc disease." In reaching
the determination that plaintiff is not disabled, the ALJ
gave great weight to the opinions of non-examining State
Agency medical consultants, the report by Dr. Gerald Becker,
and plaintiff's treating physician Dr. Todd Tracy, who is
a doctor of internal medicine. The ALJ afforded little weight
to the opinion of Dr. Aaron Schachter, an orthopedist who had
treated plaintiff and opined that she has a sedentary
capacity. The ALJ found that plaintiff's statements
concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of
her symptoms were not consistent with the medical record or
her reported daily physical activity. The ALJ considered
plaintiff's collection of unemployment benefits to be
inconsistent with her assertion of being disabled, because
she would have had to certify that she would look for
employment in order to receive such benefits.
explained that additional written evidence was submitted and
admitted into the record, and the ALJ found that “duty
to develop the record” had been satisfied. The ALJ
indicated that the decision reflected consideration of
plaintiff's treatment history, the objective clinical
findings, plaintiff's subjective complaints, and all of
the medical opinions and evidence of the record.
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).
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 or her 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