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Sherry Raynor, On v. Michael J. Astrue

October 7, 2011


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



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 her application for her child's Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). Specifically, Plaintiff alleged that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") denying her application for SSI for her child was not supported by substantial evidence and was contrary to the applicable legal standards.

On May 27, 2010, Magistrate Judge Bianchini issued a Report and Recommendation in which he recommended that the Court remand this matter for further proceedings pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) because the ALJ had not applied the proper legal standards in evaluating Plaintiff's and her daughter's credibility and because he had not provided a sufficient rationale for his credibility determination. See Dkt. No. 16 at 9. Currently before the Court are Defendant's objections to Magistrate Judge Bianchini's recommendation. See Dkt. No. 17.


On July 7, 2006, Plaintiff filed an application for SSI on behalf of C.M. claiming disability since May 24, 1996, because of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD"), learning disabilities, and speech delay. See Administrative Record ("AR") at 30, 60-62, 64. The Commissioner initially denied her application on September 21, 2006. See id. at 26-30. Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing on November 7, 2006. See id. at 33.

On May 28, 2008, Plaintiff, C.M., and a paralegal appeared before the ALJ. See id. at 123-49. The ALJ considered the case de novo and, on June 23, 2008, issued a decision finding that C.M. was not disabled. See id. at 10-23. The ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on January 28, 2009. See id. at 3-6. On February 25, 2009, Plaintiff filed this action, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's disability determination.


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 those 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 also Gamble v. Barnhart, No. 02CV1126, 2004 WL 2725126, *1 (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 29, 2004) (citations omitted).

B. The ALJ's credibility analysis

Magistrate Judge Bianchini recommended that this Court find that the ALJ erred in assessing Plaintiff's and C.M.'s credibility. See Dkt. No. 16 at 6. Magistrate Judge Bianchini found error in the fact that the ALJ repeatedly referenced the fact that C.M. was not taking medication to alleviate the symptoms of her ADHD or receiving counseling. See id. As such, Magistrate Judge Bianchini concluded that the ALJ failed properly to consider why C.M. discontinued her medication. See id. Defendant argues that the ALJ was correct in noting that C.M.'s failure to take medication belied her and Plaintiff's claims of substantial limitations. See Dkt. No. 17 at 2-3.

"'An [ALJ], may properly reject [subjective complaints] after weighing the objective medical evidence in the record, the claimant's demeanor, and other indicia of credibility, but must set forth his or her reasons "with sufficient specificity to enable us to decide whether the determination is supported by substantial ...

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