DECISION AND ORDER
FRANK P. GERACI, Jr., Chief District Judge.
Maximillian Moore ("Moore" or "Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act ("the Act") seeking review of the final decision of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner") that denied his applications for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Act. ECF No. 1. The Court has jurisdiction over this action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).
Both parties have moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). ECF Nos. 10, 16. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's motion is GRANTED, the Commissioner's motion is DENIED, and this matter is REMANDED to the Commissioner for further administrative proceedings.
On July 18 and July 29, 2014, Moore applied for SSI and DIB with the Social Security Administration ("the SSA"). Tr.
I. District Court Review
"In reviewing a final decision of the SSA, this Court is limited to determining whether the SSA's conclusions were supported by substantial evidence in the record and were based on a correct legal standard." Talavera v. Astrue, 697 F.3d 145, 151 (2d Cir. 2012) (quotation marks omitted); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Act holds that a decision by the Commissioner is "conclusive" if it is supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). "Substantial evidence means more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Moran v. Astrue, 569 F.3d 108, 112 (2d Cir. 2009) (quotation marks omitted). It is not the Court's function to "determine de novo whether [the claimant] is disabled." Schaal v. Apfel, 134 F.3d 496, 501 (2d Cir. 1998) (quotation marks omitted); see also Wagner v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 906 F.2d 856, 860 (2d Cir. 1990) (holding that review of the Secretary's decision is not de novo and that the Secretary's findings are conclusive if supported by substantial evidence).
II. Disability Determination
An ALJ must follow a five-step sequential evaluation to determine whether a claimant is disabled within the meaning of the Act. See Parker v. City of New York, 476 U.S. 467, 470-71 (1986). At step one, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful work activity. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b). If so, the claimant is not disabled. If not, the ALJ proceeds to step two and determines whether the claimant has an impairment, or combination of impairments, that is "severe" within the meaning of the Act, meaning that it imposes significant restrictions on the claimant's ability to perform basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). If the claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments, the analysis concludes with a finding of "not disabled." If the claimant does, the ALJ continues to step three.
At step three, the ALJ examines whether a claimant's impairment meets or medically equals the criteria of a listed impairment in Appendix 1 of Subpart P of Regulation No. 4 (the "Listings"). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). If the impairment meets or medically equals the criteria of a Listing and meets the durational requirement (20 C.F.R. § 404.1509), the claimant is disabled. If not, the ALJ determines the claimant's residual functional capacity ("RFC"), which is the ability to perform physical or mental work activities on a sustained basis, notwithstanding limitations for the collective impairments. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(e)-(f).
The ALJ then proceeds to step four and determines whether the claimant's RFC permits him or her to perform the requirements of his or her past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f). If the claimant can perform such requirements, then he or she is not disabled. If he or she cannot, the analysis proceeds to the fifth and final step, wherein the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant is not disabled. To do so, the Commissioner must present evidence to demonstrate that the claimant "retains a residual functional capacity to perform alternative substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy" in light of his or her age, education, and work experience. See Rosa v. Callahan, 168 F.3d 72, 77 (2d Cir. 1999) (quotation marks omitted); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1560(c).
I. The ALJ's Decision
The ALJ's decision analyzed Moore's claim for benefits under the process described above. At step one, the ALJ found that Moore had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. Tr. 22. At step two, the ALJ found that Moore has the following severe impairments: depression with psychotic features and borderline intellectual functioning. Tr. 22-23. At step three, the ALJ found that these impairments, alone or in combination, did not meet or medically equal any Listings impairment. Tr. 23-24.
Next, the ALJ determined that Moore retained the RFC to perform medium work
At step four, the ALJ indicated that Moore has no past relevant work. Tr. 29. At step five, the ALJ relied on the VE's testimony and found that Moore can adjust to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy given his RFC, age, education, and work experience. Tr. 29-30. Specifically, the VE testified that Moore could work as an industrial cleaner. Tr. 30. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Moore was not "disabled" under the Act. Tr. 30-31.
Moore argues that remand is required because the ALJ's credibility assessment is not supported by substantial evidence.
The ALJ must consider the claimant's statements about his or her symptoms and how those symptoms affect his or her daily activities and ability to work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1529, 416.929. However, the claimant's statements about his or her symptoms will not alone establish that he or she is disabled. Id. Thus, the ALJ must follow a two-step process when considering the claimant's alleged symptoms and their effect on his or her ability to work.
First, the ALJ must consider whether the medical evidence shows any impairment that "could reasonably be expected to produce the pain or other symptoms alleged[.]" 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1529(a), 416.929(a). Second, if such an impairment is shown, the ALJ must evaluate the "intensity and persistence" of the claimant's symptoms to determine the extent to which they limit his or her work capacity. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1529(c)(1), 416.929(c)(1).
When the objective medical evidence alone does not substantiate the claimant's alleged symptoms, the ALJ must assess the credibility of the claimant's statements considering the following factors: (1) the claimant's daily activities; (2) the location, duration, frequency, and intensity of the claimant's symptoms; (3) precipitating and aggravating factors; (4) the type, dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of any medication taken to alleviate symptoms; (5) other treatment received to relieve symptoms; (6) any measures the claimant has taken to relieve symptoms; and (7) any other factors concerning the claimant's functional limitations and restrictions due to symptoms. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1529(c)(3)(i)-(vii), 416.929(c)(3)(i)-(vii).
The ALJ's credibility findings "must be set forth with sufficient specificity to permit intelligible plenary review of the record." Phelps v. Colvin, 20 F.Supp.3d 392, 403 (W.D.N.Y. 2014) (quotation marks and citation omitted). Social Security Ruling 96-7p warns that:
S.S.R. 96-7p, Policy Interpretation Ruling Titles II & XVI: Evaluation of Symptoms in Disability Claims: Assessing the Credibility of an Individual's Statements, 1996 WL 374186, at *2 (S.S.A. July 2, 1996) (emphasis added).
Here, the ALJ's credibility determination is conclusory and insufficient. The ALJ stated that:
Tr. 25. Although the ALJ indicated that the credibility determination would be explained later in his decision, the ALJ never explained why he found Moore "not entirely credible." He merely concluded at the end of his decision that "[Moore]'s testimony is credible, but not to the extent alleged" and that "[Moore]'s subjective complaints are less than fully credible and the objective medical evidence does not support the alleged severity of symptoms." Tr. 29. Although the ALJ's decision summarizes Moore's daily activities and medication use, which are relevant factors to consider in the credibility analysis, it lacks specific explanation as to how those factors affected Moore's credibility. Tr. 29; see S.S.R. 96-7p, 1996 WL 374186, at *2.
For the reasons stated, the Court finds that the ALJ's credibility assessment is not supported by substantial evidence. The ALJ failed to specifically explain why he found Moore's statements not credible. Thus, it is unclear to Moore and to the Court what weight the ALJ gave to Moore's statements and the reasons for that weight. Accordingly, remand is required.
Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (ECF No. 10) is GRANTED, the Commissioner's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings (ECF No. 16) is DENIED, and this matter is REMANDED to the Commissioner for further administrative proceedings consistent with this opinion, pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). See Curry v. Apfel, 209 F.3d 117, 124 (2d Cir. 2000); 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3). The Clerk of Court is directed to enter judgment and close this case.
IT IS SO ORDERED.