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Peach v. Astrue

November 4, 2010

BRUCE F. PEACH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff brought this action pursuant to the Social Security Act ("the Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 405 (g), 1383(c)(3), seeking review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") decision denying his application for benefits was not supported by substantial evidence and was contrary to the applicable legal standards. The Commissioner disagrees.

On December 3, 2009, Magistrate Judge Bianchini issued a Report and Recommendation in which he recommended that this Court find that the Commissioner's decision was supported by substantial evidence and determined in accordance with the applicable law. As such, Magistrate Judge Bianchini recommended that this Court deny Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings and grant Defendant's cross-motion for judgment on pleadings.

Currently pending before the Court is Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report and Recommendation to which Plaintiff has filed objections.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff applied for DIB on July 26, 2005, alleging an onset date of July 11, 2005.

See Administrative Record ("AR") at 56, 79. Plaintiff alleges disability due to back, bilateral knee, and left hand impairments. The Commissioner denied his application initially on September 2, 2005. See id. at 57-59. Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing on October 4, 2005. See id. at 61.

On March 13, 2007, Plaintiff appeared before the ALJ. See id. at 375. The ALJ considered the case de novo and, on May 22, 2007, issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. See id. at 48-55. Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals Council on June 13, 2007. See id. at 43. The Appeals Council granted Plaintiff's request on June 11, 2008. See id. at 371-74. The Appeals Council issued a decision on August 26, 2008, finding that Plaintiff first became disabled as of January 9, 2007. See id. at 10-11. The Appeals Council's decision became the Commissioner's final decision. On July 9, 2008, Plaintiff filed this action, challenging the Commissioner's decision to reject his claim from July 11, 2005, to January 9, 2007.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Legal Standard

When reviewing the Commissioner's final decision, the court must determine whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards and whether substantial evidence supports the decision. See Urtz v. Callahan, 965 F. Supp. 324, 326 (N.D.N.Y. 1997) (citing Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d 983, 985 (2d Cir. 1987)). Although the Commissioner is ultimately responsible for determining a claimant's eligibility for benefits, an ALJ makes the actual disability determination; and that decision is subject to judicial review on appeal. A court may not affirm an ALJ's decision if it reasonably doubts that the ALJ applied the proper legal standards, even if it appears that there is substantial evidence to support the ALJ's decision. See id. (citing [Johnson, 817 F.2d] at 986). Additionally, the ALJ must set forth the crucial factors justifying his findings with sufficient specificity to allow a court to determine whether substantial evidence supports the decision. See Ferraris v. Heckler, 728 F.2d 582, 587 (2d Cir. 1984) (citation omitted).

When a party makes specific objections to a magistrate judge's report, the district court engages 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). When a party fails to make specific objections, however, the court reviews the magistrate judge's report for clear error. See id. at 306 (citation omitted); see ...


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