United States District Court, D. Connecticut
MARY A. DIMAURO, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
RULING ON PENDING MOTIONS
WILLIAM I. GARFINKEL, United States Magistrate Judge.
an administrative appeal following the denial of the
plaintiff, Mary DiMauro's, application for Title XVI
supplemental security income benefits (“SSI”). It
is brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff 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. # 18]. The
Commissioner, in turn, has moved for an order affirming her
decision. [Doc. # 19]. After careful consideration of the
arguments raised by Plaintiff, and thorough review of the
administrative record, the Court affirms the
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). Substantial
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)). It must be
“more than a scintilla or touch of proof here and there
in the record.” Williams, 859 F.2d at 258. 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).
filed her SSI application on November 8, 2012. Her claim was
denied at both the initial and reconsideration levels.
Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a hearing. On September 16,
2014, a hearing was held before administrative law judge
Brian Curley (“the ALJ”). On October 16, 2014,
the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's claim.
Plaintiff then sought review with the Appeals Council. The
Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision
the final decision of the Commissioner. This action followed.
has a twelfth grade education and is fluent in English. (R.
285). She was forty-seven years old on the date the SSI
application was filed. (R. 138). She has not worked since
1999. (R. 434). Plaintiff alleges disability as a result of a
combination of mental and physical impairments.
complete medical history is set forth in the Joint
Stipulation of Facts filed by the parties. [Doc. # 25]. The
Court adopts this stipulation and incorporates it by
The ALJ's Decision
Commissioner must follow a sequential evaluation process for
assessing disability claims. The five steps of this process
are as follows: (1) the Commissioner considers whether the
claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful
activity; (2) if not, the Commissioner considers whether the
claimant has a “severe impairment” which limits
his or her mental or physical ability to do basic work
activities; (3) if the claimant has a “severe
impairment, ” the Commissioner must ask whether, based
solely on the medical evidence, the claimant has an
impairment which “meets or equals” an impairment
listed in Appendix 1 of the regulations (the Listings). If
so, and it meets the durational requirements, the
Commissioner will consider the claimant disabled, without
considering vocational factors such as age, education, and
work experience; (4) if not, the Commissioner then asks
whether, despite the claimant's severe impairment, he or
she has the residual functional capacity to perform his or
her past work; and (5) if the claimant is unable to perform
his or her past work, the Commissioner then determines
whether there is other work in the national economy which the
claimant can perform. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v).
The claimant bears the burden of proof on the first four
steps, while the Commissioner bears the burden of proof on
the final step. McIntyre v. Colvin, 758 F.3d 146,
149 (2d Cir. 2014).
case, at Step One, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since the SSI
application date. (R. 132). At Step Two, the ALJ found
Plaintiff has the following severe impairments: bipolar
disorder; major depressive disorder; anxiety disorder; and
personality disorder. (R. 132). At Step Three, the ALJ found
Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments. (R. 133-34). Next, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff retains the following residual
Plaintiff can perform a full range of work at all exertion
levels but with the following non-exertional limitations: She
can understand, remember, and carry out very short, simple,
and routine one to two step tasks. She can maintain
concentration, persistence, and pace for two-hour periods in
a work environment that is goal-oriented without strict time
or production demands. She can accept instructions and
respond appropriately to criticism from supervisors. She can
get along with coworkers or peers without distracting them or
exhibiting behavioral extremes. She can adapt to minor
changes, avoid hazards, travel independently, and make simple
plans. She is not suited to close work with the public. She
must be in close proximity to a restroom.
(R. 135-38). At Step Four, the ALJ found Plaintiff has no
past relevant work. (R. 138). Finally, at Step Five, the ALJ
relied on the testimony of a vocational expert
(“VE”) to conclude that there are jobs existing
in significant numbers in the national economy Plaintiff can
perform. (R. 138). Specifically, the VE testified that a
person with Plaintiff's vocational factors and the
assessed RFC can perform the positions of dishwasher, hand
packager inspector, and price marker. (R. 139). Accordingly,
the ALJ found Plaintiff not to be disabled.
makes several arguments in support of her position that the
ALJ's decision should be reversed. The ...