United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON THE PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REVERSE THE
DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER AND ON THE DEFENDANT'S
MOTION TO AFFIRM THE DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER
M. Spector United States Magistrate Judge
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” or
“the Commissioner”] denying the plaintiff's
application for Supplemental Security Income
[“SSI”] and Social Security Disability Insurance
about November 21, 2013, the plaintiff filed an application
for SSDI benefits claiming that he has been disabled since
November 1, 2011, due to migraine headaches and depression.
(Doc. No. 16 (Certified Transcript of Administrative
Proceedings, dated April 14, 2018 [“Tr.”]) 74,
93). The Commissioner denied the plaintiff's application
initially and upon reconsideration. (Tr. 74-91, 93-109). On
December 22, 2014, the plaintiff requested a hearing before
an Administrative Law Judge [“ALJ”] (Tr. 121-22).
The plaintiff filed an application for SSI on December 21,
2015. (Tr. 200-208). On May 12, 2016, a hearing was held
before ALJ Alexander Peter Borré, at which the
plaintiff and a vocational expert, Renee B. Jubrey,
testified. (Tr. 43-73; see Tr. 19-42, 145-71,
285-87). On June 14, 2016, the ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision denying the plaintiff's claim for benefits. (Tr.
19-42). On August 4, 2016, the plaintiff requested review of
the hearing decision (Tr. 182-83), and on October 27, 2017,
the Appeals Council denied the plaintiff's request for
review, thereby rendering the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-5).
plaintiff filed his complaint in this pending action on
December 28, 2017. (Doc. No. 1). On March 13, 2018, the
parties consented to the jurisdiction of a United States
Magistrate Judge, and the case was reassigned to Magistrate
Judge Joan G. Margolis. (Doc. No. 12). The case was
transferred to this Magistrate Judge on May 1, 2018. (Doc.
No. 15). On May 8, 2018, the defendant filed her Answer and
Certified Administrative Transcript, dated April 4, 2018.
(Doc. No. 16). On July 9, 2018, the plaintiff filed his
Motion to Reverse the Decision of the Commissioner (Doc. No.
18), with a stipulation of facts (Doc. No. 18-1), brief in
support (Doc. No. 18-2 [Pl.'s Mem.]), and accompanying
exhibits (Doc. Nos. 18-3-18-6). On September 5, 2018, the
defendant filed her Motion to Affirm the Decision of the
Commissioner (Doc. No. 21), with brief in support. (Doc. No.
21-1 [Def.'s Mem.]).
reasons stated below, the plaintiff's Motion to Reverse
the Decision of the Commissioner (Doc. No. 18) is GRANTED,
and the defendant's Motion to Affirm (Doc. No. 21) is
Court presumes the parties' familiarity with the
plaintiff's medical history, which is thoroughly
discussed in the Joint Stipulation of Facts (Doc. No. 18-2).
Though the Court has reviewed the entirety of the medical
record, it cites only the portions of the record that are
necessary to explain this decision.
THE ALJ'S DECISION
the five-step evaluation process,  the ALJ found that the
plaintiff's date last insured was December 31, 2014, and
that the plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since his alleged onset date of November 1, 2011.
(Tr. 24, citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 et
seq., and 416.971, et seq.). The ALJ concluded
that the plaintiff had the following severe impairments:
migraines, asthma, obesity, and depression. (Tr. 24, citing
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)). At step
three, the ALJ concluded that the plaintiff did not have an
impairment or a combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
(Tr. 21, citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525,
404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926). The ALJ found
that the plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
[“RFC”] to perform medium work, as defined in 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a), except that
he was “limited to simple, repetitive tasks in an
environment requiring no more than occasional public
contact”; “must avoid concentrated exposure to
dusts, gases, fumes, and odors”; could tolerate
“moderate noise”; could never climb ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds; could not tolerate exposure to hazards;
could occasionally climb ramps and stairs; and could
occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. (Tr.
28). At step four, the ALJ concluded that the plaintiff was
unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. 33, citing 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1565 and 416.965). At step five,
after considering the plaintiff's age, education, work
experience, and RFC, the ALJ concluded that there were
significant numbers of jobs in the national economy that the
plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 35, citing 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1569, 404.1569(a), 416.969, and 416.969(a)).
Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that the plaintiff was not
under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, at
any time from the alleged onset date of November 1, 2011,
through the date of his decision. (Tr. 31, citing 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
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. See Balsamo v. Chater,
142 F.3d 75, 79 (2d Cir. 1998) (citation omitted). Second,
the court must decide whether substantial evidence supports
the determination. See Id. 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) (citation and internal quotations marks
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).
appeal, the plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred in several
respects. First, the plaintiff argues that the ALJ
“[m]isconstrued the [e]vidence” regarding the
plaintiff's migraine headaches. (Pl.'s Mem. at 1-9).
Second, the plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to develop
the record. (Pl.'s Mem. at 9-16). Third, the plaintiff
argues that the ALJ's analysis at steps two and three of
the sequential evaluation process was
“deficient.” (Pl.'s Mem. at 17-20). Fourth,
the plaintiff claims that the ALJ's step five analysis
was “defective.” (Pl.'s Mem. at 20-26).
Finally, the plaintiff maintains that the ALJ failed to
address adequately the plaintiff's subjective ...