United States District Court, Southern District of New York
May 8, 2003
LORRAINE N. ADEN, PLAINTIFF, AGAINST JO ANNE B. BARNHART, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ronald L. Ellis, United States Magistrate Judge.
SUPPLEMENTAL REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
To the HONORABLE LEWIS A. KAPLAN, U.S.D.J.:
On March 6, 2003, this Court recommended that defendant's motion to dismiss be granted. On March 20, 2003, plaintiff Lorraine Aden ("Aden") filed objections to this Court's Report and Recommendation, claiming she was not allowed to submit additional evidence and attaching medical records to the objections. By Order dated March 25, 2003, District Judge Kaplan remanded this matter to address two questions: (1) whether plaintiff was precluded from offering evidence before the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") and, if so, what consequences should flow therefrom, and (2) whether the material attached to the objections was part of the administrative record. For the reasons that follow, I find that Aden was not precluded from presenting evidence to the ALJ and renew my recommendation that the Commissioner's motion be GRANTED, and that Aden's complaint be DISMISSED.
In her objections to the original Report and Recommendation, Aden alleges that she was prevented from offering evidence at her hearing by the ALJ. In response to this Court's order dated March 28, 2003, Aden submitted a supplemental brief addressing the manner in which she was prevented from offering evidence before the ALJ. See Supplemental Brief ("Pl. Supp. Br."). Aden's allegations largely revolve around what she has classified as "the ALJ's outright objectional (sic) demeanor toward Ms. Aden's chosen representative." Pl. Supp. Br. at 1. In her supplemental brief, instead of supporting allegations of preclusion of evidence, she focuses on the interaction between the ALJ and her non-legal representative. Further, Aden alleged in her objections to the initial Report and Recommendation that she was not allowed to submit evidence. However, nothing in the record indicates that she was ever denied the opportunity to submit evidence. To the contrary, Aden was asked by the ALJ if she had reviewed the medical exhibits and had any objections to it, to which she replied "No." See Tr. at 49-51. Aden was also asked, at the start of the hearing, if she had any other relevant evidence to add to the record, and she did not indicate that she had anything to add. Id. at 51. Aden also complained that records from Dr. Coralia Popescu ("Dr. Popescu") were not admitted into evidence. However, the record demonstrates clearly that reports from Dr. Popescu were indeed admitted into evidence. Id. at 249-251, 281-282, 285-286. Aden does specifically allege that the ALJ precluded her from admitting evidence in an off-the-record discussion. See Pl. Supp. Br. at 2. The record, however, does not support this allegation.
As courts within this district have noted, "there is a presumption of honesty and integrity in those who serve as adjudicators for administrative proceedings." D'Amato v. Apfel, 2001 WL 776945 *5 (S.D.N.Y. 2001). Further, "this presumption of integrity can be overcome only by a `showing of conflict of interest or some other specific reason for disqualification.'" Id. (citing Withrow v. Larkin, 421 U.S. 35, 47 (1975)). Aden has not met this standard. To the contrary, there is sufficient support in the record that the ALJ went through great lengths to insure that Aden's medical file was complete and updated. See Transcript ("Tr.") at 34-43. Furthermore, the ALJ specifically sought more information from Aden's most recent treating physician, Dr. Popescu. See Tr. at 35. Therefore, there is nothing in the record to support Aden' s claim that she was denied the opportunity to fully submit any evidence of her alleged disability.
Finally, the parties were to address whether or not the material attached to Aden's objections to the initial Report and Recommendation were part of the administrative record. The medical documentation attached to Aden's objections covers the time period from October 27, 2000, though February 6, 2003. These dates were subsequent to the administrative hearing, which took place on June 3, 1998, and therefore not part of the administrative record. In her objections, Aden admits that this material "was submitted to the court to appraise [her] current physical condition." See Pl. Supp. Br. at 3. To the extent Aden is asking this Court to consider this subsequent evidence in reviewing the ALJ's decision, "evidence not contained in the administrative record may not be considered when reviewing the findings of the Commissioner." Brown v. Barnhart, 2003 WL 1888727 * 10 (S.D.N.Y. 2003). The Second Circuit has outlined a three-pronged test for determining whether a district court should consider new evidence:
[A]n appellant must show that the proffered evidence
is (1) `new' and not merely cumulative of what is
already in the record, and that it is (2) material,
that is, both relevant to the claimant's condition
during the time period for which benefits were denied
and probative . . . [and] (3) [the claimant must show]
good cause for [his/her] failure to present the
Jones v. Sullivan, 949 F.2d 57
, 60 (2d Cir. 1991) (citations omitted). Aden's new evidence fails to meet the second prong of the test. As courts within this district have observed, "[t]o satisfy the materiality standard, additional evidence must also relate back to the time period for which benefits were denied, that is before the ALJ's decision." Brown, 2003 WL 1888727 at * 11 (citations omitted). Aden's newly submitted medical records are for the time subsequent to the ALJ's decision, not prior to. If this Court were to comply with Aden's request to view current medical documentation as proof of error in the ALJ' s decision, courts would be in perpetual review of social security claims. Aden's new documentation can be used to support a new application for social security benefits, not to overturn a sound, prior administration decision.
For the foregoing reasons, I respectfully recommend that defendant's motion be GRANTED, and the plaintiff's complaint be DISMISSED.
Pursuant to Rule 72, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the parties shall have ten (10) days after being served with a copy of the recommended disposition to file written objections to this Supplemental Report and Recommendation. Such objections shall be filed with the Clerk of the Court and served on all adversaries, with extra copies delivered to the chambers of the Honorable Lewis A. Kaplan, 500 Pearl Street, Room 1310, and to the chambers of the undersigned, Room 1970. Failure to file timely objections shall constitute a waiver of those objections both in the District Court and on later appeal to the United States Court of Appeals. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150 (1985); Small v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 892 F.2d 15, 16 (2d Cir. 1989) (per curiam); 28 U.S.C. § 636 (b)(1) (West Supp. 1995); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72, 6(a), 6(e).
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