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Kevin M. Rich v. Commissioner of Social Security

March 31, 2011

KEVIN M. RICH, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Glenn T. Suddaby, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court, in this action filed by Kevin M. Rich ("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. 19); (2) Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. No. 22); and (3) the Report-Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Victor E. Bianchini, issued pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 72.3(c) of the Local Rules of Practice for this Court, recommending that (a) Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings be denied, (b) Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings be granted, (c) Defendant's decision denying Social Security benefits to Plaintiff be affirmed, and (d) Plaintiff's Complaint be dismissed (Dkt. No. 25). For the reasons set forth below, Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation is accepted and adopted in its entirety; Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings is denied; Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted; Defendant's decision denying Social Security benefits to Plaintiff is affirmed; and Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Because neither party has objected to Part II of Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation, setting forth the procedural background of this action, the Court adopts that description of this action's procedural background. (See generally Dkt. No. 25, at II [Report-Rec].)

On April 5, 2005, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under the Social Security Act based on a learning disability which left him unable to work.*fn1 (See Administrative Transcript ["T."] at 126-33.)*fn2 Plaintiff's application was denied by the Social Security Administration. Plaintiff appealed the denial and, on January 17, 2007, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") of the Social Security Administration. (T. at 345.)

On February 20, 2007, the ALJ issued his decision finding Plaintiff disabled from March 15, 2002, through the date of the decision. (T. at 36-41.) The ALJ further concluded that Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2010. (Id.)

Before paying any benefits, the Commissioner reviewed Plaintiff's employment earnings and determined that Plaintiff's earnings for the years 2002-2005 were not employment wages and, as a result, Plaintiff was found to be uninsured and ineligible for DIB. (T. at 94.) On April 23, 2007, the Commissioner referred the question of Plaintiff's entitlement to DIB to the Social Security Appeals Council. (T. at 73.)

On August 3, 2007, the Appeals Council notified Plaintiff that it intended to change ALJ Gale's decision insofar as the ALJ had awarded DIB, on the grounds that Plaintiff's earnings from 2002 to 2005 were not the result of bona fide employment and, thus, Plaintiff was uninsured. Plaintiff's counsel requested reconsideration and, on September 7, 2007, the Appeals Council issued an Order Remanding the Case to the ALJ.

On June 20, 2009, the ALJ conducted a further administrative hearing. On January 27, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not fully insured for purposes of DIB and was therefore not entitled to such benefits. On September 10, 2009, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of Defendant.

(T. at 7-11.) On November 9, 2009, Plaintiff commenced this action in this Court. (Dkt. No. 1.) Generally, in his brief in support of his motion for judgment on the pleadings, Plaintiff asserts the following three arguments: (1) the ALJ erred in finding Plaintiff has not met the insured status requirements under the Social Security Act (Dkt. No. 19 at 1); (2) the ALJ failed to develop the record regarding Plaintiff's employment; (id. at 2); and (3) the ALJ failed to apply the appropriate legal standard in evaluating the credibility of Plaintiff and his father (id. at 3).

Generally, in his brief in opposition to Plaintiff's motion, and in support of his own motion, Defendant disagrees with each of these three arguments, and argues that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed. (Dkt. No. 22.)

B. Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation

On March 2, 2011, Magistrate Judge Bianchini issued a Report-Recommendation recommending that Defendant's decision denying Social Security benefits be affirmed and that the Complaint be dismissed. (Dkt. No. 25.) Generally, in support of his recommendation, Magistrate Judge Bianchini found as follows: (1) the ALJ properly examined the record, afforded appropriate weight to the evidence, and acted well within his discretion when evaluating the credibility of the witnesses; and (2) there was substantial evidence in the record to support the ALJ's conclusion that Plaintiff did meet the insured status requirements under the Social ...


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