United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER DENYING MOTION TO REVERSE AND GRANTING
CROSS-MOTION TO AFFIRM
Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge
Michael Montelli claims that he is disabled and unable to
work due to several conditions. He filed this action pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking review of a final decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security, who denied
Montelli's application for supplemental security
income. For the reasons set forth below, I will
deny Montelli's motion to reverse the Commissioner's
decision and grant the Commissioner's motion to affirm.
to the transcripts provided by the Commissioner. See
Doc. #12. Montelli filed an application for supplemental
security income on June 7, 2016, alleging a disability
beginning on December 1, 2012. Id. at 112-13.
Montelli's claim was initially denied in September of
2016, id. at 140, and denied again upon
reconsideration on February 24, 2017, id. at 148. He
then filed a request for a hearing in April of 2017.
Id. at 151.
appeared and testified at a hearing in Hartford, Connecticut,
before Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Alexander P. Borre on
June 26, 2018. Id. at 44. Montelli was represented
by counsel. Ibid. On August 14, 2018, the ALJ issued
a decision concluding that Montelli was not disabled within
the meaning of the Social Security Act. See Id. at
16. The Appeals Council denied Montelli's request for
review on October 2, 2018. Id. at 1. Montelli then
filed this case on October 29, 2018. 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
[their] 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) (citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1566(b)).
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, [he] 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 Montelli was not disabled within the meaning
of the Social Security Act. At Step One, the ALJ concluded
Montelli had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since June 7, 2016, the date of his application for benefits.
Doc. #12 at 21. At Step Two, the ALJ found that Montelli
suffered from the following severe impairments:
“degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine,
bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, obesity, and
depression.” Id. at 22. The ALJ also took note
of Montelli's history of diabetes and obstructive sleep
apnea, but did not find either of those conditions to be
severe, either individually or in combination with other
Three, the ALJ determined that Montelli did not have an
impairment or 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.
Ibid. The ALJ considered Montelli's physical
impairments as well as his mental impairments. Id.
to Step Four, the ALJ then found that Montelli had “the
residual capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR
416.97(b) except that the claimant could perform simple and
repetitive tasks in an environment with no strict production
quotas and no public interaction. The claimant could not
climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, or tolerate hazards. The
claimant could occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl.
The claimant could frequently finger and handle,
bilaterally.” Id. at 26. At Step Four, the ALJ
concluded that Montelli had no past relevant work that he
could be capable of performing. Id. at 33.
Five, after considering Montelli's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity
(“RFC”), the ALJ concluded that there were jobs
that Montelli could perform that existed in significant
numbers in the national economy. Id. at 34-35. In
reaching this conclusion, the ALJ relied on the testimony of
a vocational expert. Ibid. The ALJ ...