United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER AFFIRMING THE COMMISSIONER'S
W. Thompson, United States District Judge
Craig Todd Schamback appeals the Commissioner's final
decision denying the plaintiff's application for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the Social Security Act
plaintiff filed a motion for reversal or remand, arguing that
the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (1)
“misinterpreted and misevaluated the evidence of
record” by (a) not finding that obesity, diabetes and
heart disease were “severe” impairments, and (b)
by failing to properly assess the plaintiff's pain; (2)
by failing to properly evaluate two medical source statements
prepared by Dr. James Duran in 2016; and (3) by failing to
properly formulate the plaintiff's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”). Pl.'s Mem. to Reverse
(“ECF No. 20-1”) at 2.
Commissioner filed a motion for an order affirming the
Commissioner's decision, arguing that the ALJ applied the
correct legal standards and that substantial evidence
supports the ALJ's Decision. See Def.'s Mot.
to Affirm (ECF No. 24) at 1-2.
reasons set forth below, the court concludes that the ALJ
applied the correct legal standards, and the ALJ's
findings are supported by substantial evidence. Thus, the
Commissioner's final decision should be affirmed.
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, 844 (2d Cir. 1981). The court
may not make a de novo determination of whether a plaintiff
is disabled in reviewing a denial of disability benefits.
See Wagner v. Sec'y of Health & Human
Servs., 906 F.2d 856, 860 (2d Cir. 1990). Rather, the
court's function is to ascertain whether the Commissioner
applied the correct legal principles in reaching a conclusion
and whether the decision is supported by substantial
evidence. See Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d 983, 985
(2d Cir. 1987).
223(d) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 423(d),
defines disability as "inability 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 . . ." SSR 73-7c. “[F]or
purposes of meeting the statutory requirement for
‘disability,' both the ‘inability to engage
in any substantial gainful activity' and the
‘impairment' must exist at the same time and for
the required 12-month period.” Id.
Title II, a “disabling impairment(s)” “must
be expected to result in death or must have lasted (or be
expected to last) for at least 12 continuous months from the
date of onset.” SSR 82-52 (rescinded and replaced
October 2, 2018, after the ALJ's Decision). “The
onset date of disability is the first day an individual is
disabled as defined in the Act and the regulations.”
SSR 83-20 (rescinded and replaced October 2, 2018, after the
Title II, the onset date may be “critical”
because it “may affect the period for which the
individual can be paid and may even be determinative of
whether the individual is entitled to or eligible for any
benefits”. SSR 83-20 (rescinded and replaced October 2,
2018, after the ALJ's Decision). In addition, “[a]
[T]itle II worker cannot be found disabled under the Act
unless insured status is also met at a time when the evidence
established the presence of a disabling condition(s).”
Id. Here, the plaintiff identified in his Title II
application an onset date of September 30, 2007. R. at 219.
The plaintiff's date last insured (“DLI”) is
also September 30, 2007.
first hearing on May 6, 2015, the ALJ who presided explained
sua sponte to the plaintiff that the onset date and the date
last insured were the same date, and that his claim was very
specific. See R. at 90-98. The ALJ asked the
plaintiff if he wanted to postpone the hearing to seek
representation to assist in establishing an earlier onset
date and to develop the record for the period before
September 30, 2007. The plaintiff requested the postponement
and the hearing was continued. See id.
20, 2016, almost one year later, a different ALJ (the one who
wrote the Decision) held the second hearing. The claimant
appeared with counsel. Counsel did not propose a new onset
date. Again sua sponte, the ALJ inquired of counsel and the
plaintiff regarding the claim and the evidence surrounding
September 30, 2007 and two 2016 medical source statements
(“MSS”) introduced into evidence, one amending
the other (adding lumbar stenosis to cervical radiculopathy
diagnoses and modifying limitations). See R. at
40-49 (hearing transcript); R. at 1537-39 (26F 6/13/16 MSS);
R. at 1548-50 (29F 7/7/16 MSS). The ALJ asked counsel to get
clarification from Dr. Duran, the treating physician who
produced the two 2016 MSSs, as to the basis for the
amendment, and if counsel and the plaintiff determined it was
best, clarification as to the basis for Dr. Duran's
opinions related to cervical radiculopathy and lumbar
stenosis. See R. at 42-48.
of Obesity, Diabetes and Heart Disease
plaintiff challenges the evaluation of the evidence.
Specifically, the plaintiff argues
and “misstatement” of the evidence. (ECF No. 20-1
at 2, 13-14). The plaintiff contends that the ALJ “made
incorrect severity findings . . . on misstated
evidence” because obesity, diabetes and heart disease
were severe impairments, (ECF No. 20-1 at 13-14), and cites
to evidence related to these three conditions. See
ECF No. 20-1 at 14-15.
defendant maintains that “the ALJ's findings are
well supported by substantial evidence and included an
appropriate evaluation of records that post-date the
DLI” (ECF No. 24 at 7), and that the plaintiff
“cannot show that the impairments caused limitations
not fully considered in the ALJ's decision” (ECF
No. 24 at 9).
Two, an impairment is considered “severe” if it
“significantly limits” the plaintiff's
“ability to do basic work activities.” 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(c). “Basic work activities” is
defined as “the abilities and aptitudes necessary to do
most jobs.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1521(b).
“Examples of these include . . . [p]hysical functions
such as walking, ...