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, Sharon Igaravidez Gonzalez's, applications for
Title II disability insurance benefits (“DIB”)
and 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. # 20]. The Commissioner, in turn, has moved for an
order affirming her decision. [Doc. # 21]. After careful
consideration of the arguments raised by Plaintiff, and
thorough review of the administrative record, the Court
affirms the Commissioner's decision.
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).
Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI on May 6, 2014,
alleging a disability onset date of November 1, 2013. Her
claims were denied at both the initial and reconsideration
levels. Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a hearing. On
September 26, 2016, a hearing was held before administrative
law judge Eskunder Boyd (the “ALJ”). On December
6, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's
claims. The Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's
unfavorable decision. This action followed.
was thirty-three years old on the alleged disability onset
date. (R. 26). She has a twelfth-grade education. (R. 45).
She cannot communicate in English. (R. 45). Plaintiff last
worked in 2012. (R. 51). She has past employment experience
as a factor worker and assembly line worker. (R. 26).
complete medical history is set forth in the Joint
Stipulation of Facts filed by the parties. [Doc. # 20-2]. 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. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520; 416.920. 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 alleged
onset date. (R. 17). At Step Two, the ALJ found the following
severe impairments: Asthma; Crohn's Disease; Post
Traumatic Stress Disorder; Depressive Disorder; and Anxiety
Disorder. (R. 17). 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. 28). Next, the ALJ
determined Plaintiff retains the following residual
Plaintiff can perform sedentary work except she requires a
sit/stand option defined as sitting for forty-five minutes,
alternate to standing position for five minutes, then resume
sitting. She may never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds,
but may occasionally balance, stop, crouch, kneel, and crawl.
She should not work with exposure to temperature extremes and
should avoid even moderate exposure to pulmonary irritants.
She is able to perform simple, routine, repetitive tasks and
is able to sustain concentration, persistence, or pace for
two-hour segments with occasional interaction with coworkers
and no interaction with the public. The work should involve
little to no changes in duties or routines and should not
require independent judgment making with no setting work
duties or schedules for others, and no responsibility for the
safety of others. She must receive instructions orally or by
demonstration and not in written form.
(R. 20-6). At Step Four, the ALJ found Plaintiff unable to
perform any past relevant work. (R.26). Finally, at Step
Five, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a vocational expert
to find that there are jobs existing in significant numbers
in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform. (R. 27).
Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff can perform the
positions of visual inspector, novelty assembler, and quality
control weight tester/inspector. (R. 27). 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 Court will address
these points in turn.
Findings regarding ...