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Raite v. Astrue

November 16, 2010

JUDITH A. RAITE, 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 Judith Raite challenges the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of disability insurance benefits (DIB), 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 Raite's complaint.

II. Background

On April 29, 2005, Raite filed an application for DIB under the Social Security Act, alleging disability beginning on January 1, 1999, due to relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis (MS) and related fatigue. (Tr.*fn1 at 69-73; see also Tr. at 24.) After her application was denied, Raite requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on January 31, 2007. (Tr. at 228-64.) On March 14, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision denying the requested benefits, (Tr. at 22-31), which became the Commissioner's final decision upon the Social Security Administration Appeals Council's denial of review. (Tr. at 4-6.)

Raite commenced the present action by filing a complaint on June 27, 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. 5, 6.) Each party, seeking judgment on the pleadings, filed a brief. (Dkt. Nos. 7, 10; see also Dkt. No. 15.)

III. Contentions

Raite contends that the Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence or the appropriate legal standards. Specifically, Raite claims that the ALJ: (1) failed to follow the treating physician rule; (2) improperly relied on the opinion of a non-medical source; and (3) selectively cited to the record and ignored evidence supporting her claim. (See Pl. Br. at 6-15, Dkt. No. 7.) 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 1-5, Dkt. No. 7; Def. Br. at 2, Dkt. No. 10.)

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

Generally, the opinion of a treating physician is given controlling weight if it is based on well-supported, medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with other substantial evidence in the record. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1527(d)(2), 416.927(d)(2); see also Schaal v. Apfel, 134 F.3d 496, 503 (2d Cir. 1998). Furthermore, "while a treating physician's retrospective diagnosis is not conclusive, it is entitled to controlling weight unless it is contradicted by other medical evidence or 'overwhelmingly compelling' non-medical evidence." Byam v. Barnhart, 336 F.3d 172, 183 (2d Cir. 2003) (citations omitted). An ALJ may not arbitrarily substitute his own judgment for a competent medical opinion. See Rosa v. Callahan,168 F.3d 72, 79 (2d Cir. 1999). Where controlling weight is not given to the treating physician's opinion, the ALJ must assess several factors to determine how much weight to give the opinion, including: (1) the length, nature, and extent of the treatment relationship; (2) the frequency of examination by the treating physician for the conditions in question; (3) the medical evidence and ...


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