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Noe Delgado v. Michael J. Astrue

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


March 24, 2011

NOE DELGADO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court in this action, filed by Noe Delgado ("Plaintiff") against Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue ("Defendant") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking Social Security benefits, are the following: (1) Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. No. 9); (2) Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. No. 12); and (3) the Report-Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Victor E. Bianchini, issued pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B) and Local Rule 72.3(c) of the Local Rules of Practice for this Court, recommending that the case be remanded to Defendant for further proceedings pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (Dkt. No. 14). For the reasons set forth below, Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation is accepted and adopted in is entirety; Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted in part and denied in part; Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings is denied; and the case is remanded to Defendant for further proceedings pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Because neither party has objected to Part II of Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation, which sets forth the procedural background of this action, the Court adopts that description of this action's procedural background. (See generally Dkt. No. 14, at 1-2 [Report-Rec].)

More specifically, on June 9, 2008, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") under the Social Security Act based on post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"), an ankle impairment, and a back impairment which left him unable to work. (See Administrative Transcript ["T."] at 123-125.)*fn1 The application was denied by the Social Security Administration. (T. at 54-57.) On January 28, 2009, a video hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") of the Social Security Administration. (T. at 18-52.)

On February 13, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's applications. (T. at 11-17.) In her decision, the ALJ applied the five-step sequential evaluation process for determining whether an individual is disabled,*fn2 and concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled from February 1, 2007 (i.e., the alleged onset date) through February 13, 2009 (i.e., the date of the ALJ's decision). (Dkt. No. 14.)

In reaching this conclusion, the ALJ made the following findings: (1) Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2012, and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity as of his alleged onset date, February 1, 2007; (2) Plaintiff's "degenerative changes of the lumbar spine, arthritis of the right ankle, posttraumatic stress disorder, major depression, and history of alcohol abuse" were severe impairments; (3) Plaintiff's impairments did not either meet or medically equal a Listed impairment; (4) Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to (a) lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently, (b) stand and/or walk for a total of six hours in an eight-hour workday, (c) sit for a total of six hours in an eight-hour workday, (d) push and/or pull 20 pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently, (e) climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds occasionally, and (f) understand, carry out, and remember simple instructions, respond appropriately to supervision, co-workers, and usual work situations, and deal with changes in a routine work setting; (5) Plaintiff's subjective complaints were "not fully credible"; (6) Plaintiff was a younger individual with a high school education, and was able to communicate in English; and (7) based on Medical-Vocational Rule 202.21, there were a significant number of positions in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. (Dkt. No. 14 at 5-6.)

Plaintiff appealed from the ALJ's decision to the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council. (T. at 7.) On July 31, 2009, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of Defendant. (T. at 1-4.) On September 24, 2009, Plaintiff commenced this action in federal court. (Dkt. No. 1.)

Generally, in his brief in support of his Complaint, Plaintiff asserts the following three arguments: (1) the ALJ erred in evaluating Plaintiff's credibility; (2) the ALJ erred in weighing the opinions from Plaintiff's treating sources; and (3) the ALJ erred at various other points throughout the sequential evaluation. (Dkt. No. 9.) Generally, in his brief in response to Plaintiff's brief, Defendant opposes each of these arguments, and argues that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed. (Dkt. No. 12.)

B. Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation

On January 31, 2011, Magistrate Judge Bianchini issued a Report-Recommendation recommending that Plaintiff's case be remanded to the Commissioner. (Dkt. No. 14.) Generally, in support of his recommendation, Magistrate Judge Bianchini found as follows: (1) the ALJ failed to apply the required two-step analysis when assessing Plaintiff's credibility; (2) the ALJ failed to give proper weight to Plaintiff's treating sources; and (3) because the ALJ failed to properly evaluate Plaintiff's treating sources, the ALJ's sequential evaluation was flawed. (Id.)

II. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Standard of Review of Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation

When specific objections are made to a magistrate judge's report-recommendation, the Court makes a "de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).*fn3

When only general objections are made to a magistrate judge's report-recommendation, or where the objecting party merely reiterates the same arguments taken in its original papers submitted to the magistrate judge, the Court reviews the report-recommendation for clear error or manifest injustice. See Brown v. Peters, 95-CV-1641, 1997 WL 599355, at *2-3 (N.D.N.Y. Sept. 22, 1997) (Pooler, J.) [collecting cases], aff'd without opinion, 175 F.3d 1007 (2d Cir. 1999).*fn4

Similarly, when a party makes no objection to a portion of a report-recommendation, the Court reviews that portion for clear error or manifest injustice. See Batista v. Walker, 94-CV-2826, 1995 WL 453299, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. July 31, 1995) (Sotomayor, J.) [citations omitted]; Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b), Advisory Committee Notes: 1983 Addition [citations omitted]. After conducing the appropriate review, the Court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).

B. Standard Governing Judicial Review of Defendant's Decision

In Part III(A) of his Report-Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Bianchini correctly recited the legal standard governing judicial review of Defendant's decision. (Dkt. No.14, at 3-5.) As a result, this standard is incorporated by reference in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for the review of the parties.

III. ANALYSIS

Objections to the Report-Recommendation have not been filed in this case, and the time in which to do so has expired. As a result, the Court need review the Report-Recommendation only for clear error.

After carefully reviewing all of the papers in this action, including Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation, the Court concludes that Magistrate Judge Bianchini's thorough Report-Recommendation is correct in all respects.(Dkt. No. 14.) Magistrate Judge Bianchini employed the proper standards, accurately recited the facts, and reasonably applied the law to those facts. (Id.) As a result, the Court accepts and adopts the Report-Recommendation in its entirety for the reasons stated therein. (Id.)

ACCORDINGLY, it is ORDERED that Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation (Dkt. No. 14) is ACCEPTED and ADOPTED in its entirety; and it is further ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. No. 9) is GRANTED in part and DENIED in part; and it is further ORDERED that Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. No. 12) is DENIED; and it is further ORDERED that this action is REMANDED to Defendant for further proceedings in accordance with this Decision and Order and pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Dated: March 24, 2011

Syracuse, New York


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