Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Palmer v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

December 3, 2018

KELLY JEAN PALMER
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY[1]

          RULING ON THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REVERSE THE DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER AND ON THE DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR AN ORDER AFFIRMING THE DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER

          ROBERT M. SPECTOR UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This action, filed under § 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeks review of a final decision by the Commissioner of Social Security [“SSA”] denying the plaintiff disability insurance benefits [“DIB”].

         I. ADMINISTRATIVE PROCEEDINGS

         On or about October 7, 2013, the plaintiff filed an application for DIB benefits claiming she has been disabled since December 1, 2008, due to degenerative disc disease, chronic pain and plantar fasciitis in both feet, back injury, and depression. (Certified Transcript of Administrative Proceedings, dated December 2, 2017 [“Tr.”] 76, 175-81; see also Tr. 192).[2] The plaintiff's application was denied initially (Tr. 102-05), and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 111-13). On June 30, 2014, the plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge [“ALJ”] (Tr. 114-15), and on November 23, 2015, a hearing was held in Massachusetts, before ALJ Addison C.S. Masengill, at which the plaintiff and a vocational expert testified. (Tr. 48-75). On February 3, 2016, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision denying the plaintiff's claims for benefits. (Tr. 17-40). On February 3, 2016, the plaintiff submitted a request for review of the hearing decision (see Tr. 12-13), and on May 25, 2017, the Appeals Council denied the plaintiff's request for review, thereby rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 6-8).

         On October 11, 2017, the plaintiff filed her complaint in this pending action (Doc. No. 1; see Tr. 1-4 (request for more time to file civil action)), [3] and on December 15, 2017, the defendant filed her answer and administrative transcript, dated December 2, 2017. (Doc. No. 15). On April 14, 2018, the plaintiff filed her Motion to Reverse the Decision of the Commissioner (Doc. No. 17), and brief in support (Doc. No. 17-1 [“Pl.'s Mem.”]), [4] and on June 12, 2018, the defendant filed her Motion to Affirm (Doc. No. 19), and brief in support (Doc. No. 19-1 [“Def.'s Mem.”]). On September 5, 2018, the parties consented to the jurisdiction of a United States Magistrate Judge and the case was transferred to this Magistrate Judge. (Doc. No. 20).

         For the reasons stated below, the plaintiff's Motion to Reverse the Decision of the Commissioner (Doc. No. 17) is granted in part such that this case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this Ruling, and the defendant's Motion to Affirm (Doc. No. 19) is granted in part and denied in part.

         II. THE ALJ'S DECISION

         Following the five-step evaluation process, [5] the ALJ found that the plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period from her alleged onset date of December 1, 2008 through her date last insured of June 30, 2011. (Tr. 22, citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1571 et seq.). The ALJ concluded that the plaintiff had the following severe combination of impairments: back pain due to degenerative disc disease, plantar fasciitis, a history of tarsal tunnel surgery, left knee pain status post-surgical intervention, insomnia, anxiety disorder, and depressive disorder. (Tr. 23, citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c)). He next found that the plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of a listed impairment in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 23-25, citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526). The ALJ concluded that, “[a]fter careful consideration of the entire record, ” the plaintiff had the RFC to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a) through her date last insured, except that the plaintiff was limited to work that involved unskilled tasks, with no foot and leg controls; limited to work “not performed at heights or using ladders, ropes, and scaffolding[]”; limited “to no more than occasional coworker contact and public contact[];” limited to “standing and walking four hours in an eight-hour workday[]”; and limited to no overhead lifting and reaching. (Tr. 25-39). The ALJ then concluded that, through her date last insured, there were “jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant could have performed, ” (Tr. 39-40, citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1569, 404.1569(a)), [6] and thus, the claimant was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, at any time from December 1, 2008, through her date last insured, June 30, 2011. (Tr. 40, citing 20 C.F.R § 404.1520(g)).

         III. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         The scope of review of a Social Security disability determination involves two levels of inquiry. First, the court must decide whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal principles in making the determination. Second, the court must decide whether the determination is supported by substantial evidence. See Balsamo v. Chater, 142 F.3d 75, 79 (2d Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). The court may “set aside the Commissioner's determination that a claimant is not disabled only if the factual findings are not supported by substantial evidence or if the decision is based on legal error.” Burgess v. Astrue, 537 F.3d 117, 127 (2d Cir. 2008) (internal quotation marks & citation omitted); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

         Substantial evidence is evidence that a reasonable mind would accept as adequate to support a conclusion; it is more than a “mere scintilla.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation omitted); see Yancey v. Apfel, 145 F.3d 106, 111 (2d Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). The substantial evidence rule also applies to inferences and conclusions that are drawn from findings of fact. See Gonzalez v. Apfel, 23 F.Supp.2d 179, 189 (D. Conn. 1998) (citation omitted); Rodriguez v. Califano, 431 F.Supp. 421, 423 (S.D.N.Y. 1977) (citations omitted). However, the court may not decide facts, reweigh evidence, or substitute its judgment for that of the Commissioner. See Dotson v. Shalala, 1 F.3d 571, 577 (7th Cir. 1993) (citation omitted). Instead, the court must scrutinize the entire record to determine the reasonableness of the ALJ's factual findings. See Id. Furthermore, the Commissioner's findings are conclusive if supported by substantial evidence and should be upheld even in those cases where the reviewing court might have found otherwise. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also Beauvoir v. Chater, 104 F.3d 1432, 1433 (2d Cir. 1997) (citation omitted); Eastman v. Barnhart, 241 F.Supp.2d 160, 168 (D. Conn. 2003).

         IV. DISCUSSION

         A. THE PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS

         The plaintiff contends that the ALJ failed to evaluate thoroughly the opinion of Dr. Stephan Lange when determining the plaintiff's RFC. In addition, the plaintiff argues that the ALJ's credibility analysis misapplied the law and failed to assess properly the plaintiff's reports of pain. (Pl.'s Mem. at 1, 3-9). In response, the defendant contends that the ALJ correctly weighed the opinion evidence in the record, and substantial evidence supports the ALJ's RFC finding. (Def.'s Mem. at 5-10). Additionally, the defendant argues that the ALJ properly analyzed and weighed the plaintiff's subjective complaints of pain. (Def.'s Mem. at 10-13).

         B. RFC ASSESSMENT AND CONSIDERATION OF TREATING ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.