United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER GRANTING MOTION TO REVERSE AND DENYING
CROSS-MOTION FOR JUDGMENT ON THE PLEADINGS
JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Frank Annunziato, Jr., alleges that he is disabled and cannot
work because of depression, liver disease, sleep apnea, type
II diabetes, and edema and neuropathy secondary to diabetes.
Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), he seeks review of the
final decision of defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security, denying his claim for social
security disability insurance benefits. Plaintiff has filed a
motion to reverse the decision of the Commissioner, and the
Commissioner has filed a motion for judgment on the
pleadings. For the reasons explained below, I will grant
plaintiff's motion to reverse and deny the
Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings.
Court refers to the transcripts provided by the Commissioner.
See Doc. #15-1 through Doc. #15-12. Plaintiff filed
an application for disability insurance benefits under Title
II on August 8, 2014. He alleges a disability onset date of
December 10, 2012, and because his earnings record allows for
him to remain insured through September 30, 2018, he was
required to show that he became disabled on or before that
date. Doc. #15-3 at 15. The claim was denied initially on
February 17, 2015, and upon reconsideration on May 28, 2015.
Plaintiff then timely filed a written demand for an
appeared and testified before Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Ronald J. Thomas on July 28, 2016.
Vocational expert Robert T. Paterwic testified at the
hearing. On October 26, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision
concluding that plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning
of the Social Security Act. Doc. #15-3 at 14-25. On February
26, 2017, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request
for review of the ALJ's decision. Id. at 2-5.
Plaintiff timely filed this federal action seeking review of
the ALJ's decision. See Doc. #1.
qualify as disabled, a claimant must show that he is unable
“to engage in any substantial gainful activity by
reason of any medically determinable physical or mental
impairment which . . . has lasted or can be expected to last
for a continuous period of not less than 12 months, ”
and “the impairment must be ‘of such severity
that [the claimant] is not only unable to do his previous
work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy.'”
Robinson v. Concentra Health Servs., Inc., 781 F.3d
42, 45 (2d Cir. 2015) (quoting 42 U.S.C. §§
423(d)(1)(A), 423(d)(2)(A)). “[W]ork exists in the
national economy when it exists in significant numbers either
in the region where [a claimant] live[s] or in several other
regions of the country, ” and “when there is a
significant number of jobs (in one or more occupations)
having requirements which [a claimant] [is] able to meet with
[his] physical or mental abilities and vocational
qualifications.” 20 C.F.R. § 416.966(a)-(b);
see also Kennedy v. Astrue, 343 Fed.Appx. 719, 722
(2d Cir. 2009).
evaluate a claimant's disability, and to determine
whether he qualifies for benefits, the agency engages in the
following five-step process:
First, the Commissioner considers whether the claimant is
currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. Where the
claimant is not, the Commissioner next considers whether the
claimant has a “severe impairment” that
significantly limits [his] physical or mental ability to do
basic work activities. If the claimant suffers such an
impairment, the third inquiry is whether, based solely on
medical evidence, the claimant has an impairment that is
listed [in the so-called “Listings”] ¶ 20
C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1. If the claimant has a
listed impairment, the Commissioner will consider the
claimant disabled without considering vocational factors such
as age, education, and work experience; the Commissioner
presumes that a claimant who is afflicted with a listed
impairment is unable to perform substantial gainful activity.
Assuming the claimant does not have a listed impairment, the
fourth inquiry is whether, despite the claimant's severe
impairment, she has the residual functional capacity to
perform [his] past work. Finally, if the claimant is unable
to perform [his] past work, the burden then shifts to the
Commissioner to determine whether there is other work which
the claimant could perform.
Cage v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 692 F.3d 118,
122-23 (2d Cir. 2012) (alteration in original) (citation
omitted); see also 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(a)(4)(i)-(v). In applying this framework, an ALJ may
find a claimant to be disabled or not disabled at a
particular step and may make a decision without proceeding to
the next step. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4).
The claimant bears the burden of proving the case at Steps
One through Four; at Step Five, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner to demonstrate that there is other work that the
claimant can perform. See McIntyre v.
Colvin, 758 F.3d 146, 150 (2d Cir. 2014).
concluded that plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning
of the Social Security Act. At Step One, the ALJ determined
that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
employment activity since December 9, 2012, the date of the
alleged onset of his disability. Doc. #15-3 at 16.
Two, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff suffered from the
following severe impairments: diabetes mellitus, neuropathy,
and depression. Id. at 17. The ALJ further concluded
that plaintiff suffered from the following non-severe
impairments: obesity, hypertension, liver disease, and sleep
apnea. Ibid. At Step Three, the ALJ determined that
plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met or equaled the severity of one of the
listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
next concluded that plaintiff had a residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) “to perform light work as
defined in 20 CFR § 404.1567(b) except that he can
occasionally kneel, bend, balance, squat, crawl, and climb;
can never use foot controls with his left foot; and can
occasionally interact with co-workers and supervisors.”
Id. at 19. In determining plaintiff's RFC, the
ALJ considered plaintiff's allegations of the persistence
and severity of his symptoms, but found them only partially
consistent with the medical evidence of record. The ALJ
acknowledged that plaintiff's diabetes was severe,
requiring the amputation of two toes in January and May 2016.
Id. at 21.
concluded that plaintiff's allegations of functional
limitations were undercut by the fact that he attended
regular drug therapy appointments at the APT Foundation and
reported to a counselor there that he “was engaged in
meaningful daily activities including spending time with his
children, working, attending outside meetings, and playing in
his band at various locations.” Ibid. In
determining plaintiff's RFC, the ALJ found these reported
activities to be highly probative, noting that “the
claimant's admitted activities demonstrate he could
perform light work despite his severe left foot
Four, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was unable to perform
any past relevant work. Id. at 23-24. At Step Five,
the ALJ concluded that there are light work jobs that exist
in the national economy that plaintiff can perform including
as an assembler, an electronics worker, or a janitor.
Id. at 25. In reaching this conclusion, the ALJ
relied on the testimony of the Vocational Expert.