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Lazore v. Astrue

September 30, 2010

WILLIAM M. LAZORE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Plaintiff William Lazore challenges the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of disability insurance benefits (DIB) and supplemental security income (SSI), seeking judicial review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). (See Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) After reviewing the administrative record and carefully considering the arguments, the court affirms the Commissioner's decision and dismisses Lazore's complaint.

II. Background

On April 27 and May 10, 2001, Lazore filed applications for DIB and SSI under the Social Security Act, alleging disability beginning on January 9, 1999, due to degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, pain in his back and shoulders, and depressive disorders. (Tr.*fn1 at 28, 31; see also Pl. Br. at 1, Dkt. No. 10.) After his applications were denied, Lazore requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on August 14, 2002. (Tr. at 465-93.) On October 29, 2002, the ALJ issued a decision denying the requested benefits, (Tr. at 28-37), which became the Commissioner's final decision upon the Social Security Administration Appeals Council's denial of review. (Tr. at 9-11.)

Lazore commenced the present action by filing a complaint on March 15, 2007, seeking review of the Commissioner's determination. (Dkt. No. 1.) The Commissioner filed an answer and a certified copy of the administrative transcript. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) Each party, seeking judgment on the pleadings, filed a brief. (Dkt. Nos. 10, 15.)

III. Contentions

Lazore contends that the Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence or the appropriate legal standards. Specifically, Lazore claims that the ALJ: (1) failed to follow the treating physician rule; (2) improperly assessed Lazore's residual functional capacity (RFC) and did not apply the appropriate standard set forth in the Psychiatric Review Technique; and (3) improperly relied on the Medical-Vocational Guidelines. (See Pl. Br. at 19-24, Dkt. No. 10.) The Commissioner counters that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision.

IV. Facts

The evidence in this case is undisputed and the court adopts the parties' factual recitations. (See Pl. Br. at 1-16, Dkt. No. 10; Def. Br. at 2-6, Dkt. No. 15.)

V. Standard of Review

The standard for reviewing the Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is well established and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standard and the five-step process used by the Commissioner in evaluating whether a claimant is disabled under the Act, the court refers the parties to its previous opinion in Christiana v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., No. 1:05-CV-932, 2008 WL 759076, at *1-2 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 19, 2008).

VI. Discussion

A. Treating Physician Rule

Lazore first argues that the ALJ failed to afford appropriate weight to the opinions of his treating physicians, Drs. Miron Iosilevich and P. Sebastian Thomas. (See Pl. Br. at ...


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