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Richardson v. Commissioner of Social Security

May 26, 2009

ALLEN R. RICHARDSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scullin, Senior Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff brought this action seeking review of the Commissioner's decision to deny him Social Security benefits. Plaintiff moved for a finding of disability, and Defendant cross-moved for judgment on the pleadings. On April 25, 2008, Magistrate Judge Homer issued a Report- Recommendation and Order, in which he recommended that this Court reverse the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits, grant Plaintiff's motion for a finding of disability, and deny Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings. See Dkt. No. 10.

Defendant filed objections to the recommendation that the Court make a finding of disability without remand*fn1 on three grounds: (1) remand is appropriate because the current record does not compel a finding of disability; (2) remand is necessary to evaluate a discrepancy between Plaintiff's alleged disability onset date and his work history; and (3) remand is necessary to determine whether Plaintiff's substance abuse was a contributing factor material to the determination of disability.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff completed high school and two years of vocational training in health care. He was honorably discharged from the Army after six years of service working as medical staff and an ambulance driver. Plaintiff was stationed in West Germany at a training facility where multiple training accidents resulted in Plaintiff transporting and providing medical care to soldiers and witnessing numerous fatalities. Plaintiff has also worked as a chauffeur, truck loader, phlebotomist, medical laboratory technician, and biochemical coordinator. Plaintiff alleges disability due to depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder ("PTSD"), and substance abuse. See Dkt. No. 10 at 3 (and citations therein).

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

In reviewing the Commissioner's final decision, a court reviews that decision to determine whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") applied the correct legal standards and whether substantial evidence supports the decision. See Charlton v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., No. 08-CV-142, 2009 WL 838118, *2 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 26, 2009) (citation omitted). Substantial evidence means relevant evidence a reasonable mind might find sufficient to support a conclusion. See id. (quotation omitted).

Where a party makes specific objections to a magistrate judge's report, district courts engage in de novo review of the issues raised in the objections. See Farid v. Bouey, 554 F. Supp. 2d 301, 307 (N.D.N.Y. 2008) (citation omitted). "'If, however, the party makes only conclusory or general objections, or simply reiterates his original arguments, the Court reviews the Report and Recommendation only for clear error.'" Id. at 306 (quoting McAllan v. Von Essen, 517 F. Supp. 2d 672, 679 (S.D.N.Y. 2007)) (footnote omitted).

B. Findings to Which there is No Specific Objection

1. Severe Listed Impairments

Before Magistrate Judge Homer, Plaintiff argued, contrary to the ALJ's findings, that his PTSD, depression, anxiety, and substance abuse, alone or in combination, should have been classified as disability per se under the regulations. See Report-Recommendation and Order at 14-15.Magistrate Judge Homer found that Plaintiff's mental impairments were insufficient to constitute a severe listed impairment. See id. at 17. As no party has objected to this finding and there does not appear to be any clear error, the Court adopts this part of ...


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