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Virginia Garber v. Michael J. Astrue

March 29, 2012

VIRGINIA GARBER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court, in this action for supplemental security income benefits filed by Virginia Garber ("Plaintiff") against Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue ("Defendant") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), are the following: (1) Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. No. 11); (2) Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. No. 15); (3) the Report-Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge David E. Peebles, 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 this action be dismissed in its entirety (Dkt. No. 17); and (4) Plaintiff's Objections to the Report-Recommendation (Dkt. No. 18). For the reasons set forth below, Magistrate Judge Peebles' Report-Recommendations is accepted and adopted in its entirety.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Because the parties have demonstrated in their briefs an adequate understanding of this action's procedural history, and neither party has specifically objected to Magistrate Judge Peebles' accurate recitation of that procedural history, the Court adopts that recitation, in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for the review of the parties. (See generally Dkt. No. 17, at 10-14 [Report-Rec].)

The Court would add only two points. First, generally, Plaintiff's underlying application for disability insurance benefits was based on her having an alleged disability consisting of systemic lupus erythematosus ("SLE"), fibromaylagia, status post cervical spinal fusion, status post cardiac stent due to coronary artery disease ("CAD"), fatigue and pain, which began on January 21, 1992. Second, generally, in his decision determining that Plaintiff was not disabled as defined under the Social Security Act, the ALJ found that (1) Plaintiff has in fact engaged in substantial gainful activity ("SGA") since the date the application for SSI was filed, and (2) Plaintiff failed to prove her disability pursuant to the remaining four steps of the five-step protocol for evaluating claims of disability under the Social Security Act. (See Administrative Transcript ["Admin. Tr."] at 12-24.)

B. Magistrate Judge Peebles' Report-Recommendation

On March 2, 2012, Magistrate Judge Peebles issued a Report-Recommendation recommending that Defendant's decision denying Plaintiff Social Security benefits be affirmed, and that Plaintiff's Complaint be dismissed. (Dkt. No. 17, at 42-43.) Generally, in support of his recommendation, Magistrate Judge Peebles rendered the following three findings and conclusions: (1) as an initial matter, the ALJ correctly found that Plaintiff has in fact engaged in substantial gainful activity since the relevant start date of March 20, 2007, based on her work experience at Walmart (from March of 2008 to September of 2008), which itself suffices to support his finding of no disability and terminate Plaintiff's application;*fn1 (2) in any event, the ALJ's residual functioning capacity findings (e.g., that Plaintiff is capable of performing a full range of light work) during the remaining four steps of the five-step disability protocol are supported by substantial evidence; and (3) moreover, in evaluating Plaintiff's subjective complaints, the ALJ properly considered the substantial medical evidence, and sufficiently explained why he found that Plaintiff's testimony was not wholly credible. (Id. at 20-42.)

C. Plaintiff's Objections to the Report-Recommendation

On March 16, 2012, Plaintiff filed her Objections to the Report-Recommendation. (Dtk. No. 18.) Generally, in her Objections, Plaintiff asserts the following three arguments: (1) Magistrate Judge Peebles' conclusion that Plaintiff's work activity from May of 2008 to September of 2008 precluded her claim for supplemental security income benefits in its entirety was erroneous, because (a) it was improperly rendered sua sponte, no such conclusion having been rendered by the ALJ (and no such argument having been made by Defendant), and (b) in any event, any such conclusion would only preclude a claim for the five months in question, and warrant a reassignment of Plaintiff's onset date so that it coincided with the cessation of her work activity; (2) Magistrate Judge Peebles also erred in concluding that the ALJ's residual functioning capacity findings were supported by substantial evidence; and (3) Magistrate Judge Peebles also erred in concluding that the ALJ's adverse-credibility finding was supported by substantial evidence. (Id. at 1-16.)

II. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Standard of Review of Magistrate Judge Peebles' Report-Recommendation

When a specific objection is made to a portion of a magistrate judge's report-recommendation, the Court subjects that portion of the report-recommendation to a de novo review. Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). To be "specific," the objection must, with particularity, "identify [1] the portions of the proposed findings, recommendations, or report to which it has an objection and [2] the basis for the objection." N.D.N.Y. L.R. 72.1(c).*fn2 When performing such a de novo review, "[t]he judge may . . . receive further evidence. . . ." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). However, a district court will ordinarily refuse to consider evidentiary material that could have been, but was not, presented to the magistrate judge in the first instance.*fn3

When only a general objection is made to a portion of a magistrate judge's report-recommendation, the Court subjects that portion of the report-recommendation to only a clear error review. Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2),(3); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b), Advisory Committee Notes: 1983 Addition.*fn4 Similarly, when an objection merely reiterates the same arguments made by the objecting party in its original papers submitted to the magistrate judge, the Court subjects that portion of the report-recommendation challenged by those arguments to only a clear error review.*fn5 Finally, when no objection is made to a portion of a report-recommendation, the Court subjects that portion of the report-recommendation to only a clear error review. Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b), Advisory Committee Notes: ...


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