United States District Court, D. Connecticut
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON THE MOTION FOR ORDER
REVERSING COMMISSIONER'S DECISION, OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE,
TO REMAND FOR A HEARING, AND MOTION FOR AN ORDER AFFIRMING
THE DECISION OF THE COMMISSIONER
W. EGINTON SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Kim Donnarumma challenges the denial of her application for
Social Security disability benefits and requests reversal of
the Commissioner's decision, or in the alternative a
remand for a hearing. Defendant has filed a motion for an
order affirming the decision of the Commissioner.
following reasons, the Court will deny the motion to reverse
the Commissioner's decision and will grant the motion for
an order affirming the Commissioner's decision.
plaintiff has filed a joint statement of facts that details
plaintiff's medical history. The Court incorporates
herein the statement of facts setting forth plaintiff's
was born in 1966. As set forth in the joint statement of
facts, plaintiff has had numerous illnesses and disorders,
including, inter alia, right shoulder dysfunction
with multiple injuries, obesity and carpal tunnel syndrome.
She had previously worked a series of part time and per diem
jobs as a certified nursing assistant.
decision dated October 25, 2016, the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) denied plaintiff's request for
disability benefits on the basis that plaintiff did not have
an impairment or combination thereof that met or medically
equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P. The ALJ found that plaintiff
retained “significant physical functioning, ”
although she was unable to perform her past work as a
certified nurse assistant. The ALJ found that she had
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
at a light exertional level with certain limitations.
making these determinations the ALJ cited to the medical
record and considered the opinions of the medical providers.
Specifically, the ALJ gave significant weight to
plaintiff's treating physicians, Dr. Patrick Duffy and
Dr. Michael Kaplan, who indicated that plaintiff retained the
capacity for at least light duty or sedentary work.
afforded partial weight to the opinion of independent medical
evaluator Christopher Lena's opinion that plaintiff had
not yet reached her maximum medical improvement; that she
required further treatment and a gradual return to working
activities; that she could not work light duty assignments
due to her right shoulder limitations; and that she was
restricted to no overhead lifting and no lifting greater than
ten pounds. The ALJ noted that Dr. Lena's findings
were inconsistent with the less restrictive assessments of
treating physicians Duffy and Kaplan.
afforded only partial weight to the State agency consultants
on the basis that their findings were not consistent with the
medical record as a whole and their status as non-treating
the ALJ gave little weight to Dr. Yacov Kogan, who opined
that plaintiff “would be mildly limited in her
abilities to sit, stand, walk, bend, lift, carry, reach, and
perform fine finger manipulations.” The ALJ explained
that Dr. Kogan had only evaluated plaintiff once and was a
non-treating source, and that his opinion was inconsistent
with the medical record and his own examination findings,
which indicated that plaintiff experienced “some
giveaway weakness of the upper extremities and complained of
experiencing tenderness as well.” The ALJ concluded
that considering claimant's age, education, work
experience, and RFC, she could perform jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy. Plaintiff
appealed this decision to the Appeals Council, which issued
its denial on February 27, 2018.
reviewing a final decision of the Commissioner under 42
U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c), the district court
performs an appellate function. Zambrana v.
Califano, 651 F.2d 842, 844 (2d Cir. 1981); Igonia
v. Califano, 568 F.2d 1383, 1387 (D.C. Cir. 1977). A
reviewing court will “set aside the ALJ's decision
only where it is based upon legal error or is not supported
by substantial evidence.” Balsamo v. Chater,
142 F.3d 75, 79 (2d Cir. 1998). See also Alston v.
Sullivan, 904 F.2d 122, 126 (2d Cir. 1990)(“As a
general matter, when we review a decision denying benefits
under the Act, we must regard the [Commissioner's]
factual determinations as conclusive unless they are
unsupported by substantial evidence”).
“Substantial evidence” is less than a
preponderance, but “more than a scintilla.”
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).
Substantial evidence means such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion. Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S.
197, 229 (1938); see Yancey v. Apfel, 145 F.3d 106,
110 (2d Cir. 1998); Williams v. Bowen, 859 F.2d 255,
258 (2d Cir. 1988).
determining whether the evidence is substantial, the court
must “take into account whatever in the record fairly
detracts from its weight.” Universal Camera Corp.
v. NLRB, 340 U.S. 474, 488 (1951). In so doing, the
Court must “review the record as a whole.”