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Alfonso Garcia v. Michael Astrue

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


July 16, 2012

ALFONSO GARCIA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL ASTRUE, COMM'R OF SOC. SEC., 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 for Social Security benefits filed by Alfonso Garcia ("Plaintiff") against Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue ("Defendant"), is a Report-Recommendation by United States Magistrate Judge Victor E. Bianchini recommending that (1) Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings be denied, (2) Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings be granted, and (3) the case be remanded to the Commission for further proceedings pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Dkt. No. 19.) Defendant has not filed objections to the Report-Recommendation and the time in which to do so has expired. For the reasons set forth below, the Report-Recommendation is adopted in its entirety.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Because neither party has objected to Part II of Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation describing the procedural background of this action, the Court adopts that description in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for the review of the parties. (See generally Dkt. No. 19, at Part II [Report-Rec].)

B. Briefing by the Parties

Generally, Plaintiff's brief in support of his Complaint asserts the following five arguments: (1) the administrative law judge ("ALJ") failed to evaluate his treating physician's opinion; (2) the ALJ neglected to properly assess the opinion of a consultative examiner; (3) the ALJ did not properly assess a treating nurse practitioner's opinion; (4) the ALJ failed to consider Plaintiff's obesity as a severe impairment, and to consider the impact of obesity on Plaintiff's limitations; and (5) the ALJ failed to properly analyze Plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC"). (Dkt. No. 13 at Points I.A. through I.E.)

Generally, in his opposition brief, Defendant asserts the following three arguments: (1) the ALJ properly evaluated evidence in the record; (2) the ALJ properly determined that Plaintiff's obesity was not a severe impairment; and (3) the ALJ's determination that Plaintiff's RFC is compatible with light duty work is supported by evidence in the record. (Dkt. No. 15 at "Argument.")

C. Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation

On May 21, 2012, Magistrate Judge Bianchini issued a Report-Recommendation recommending that Petitioner's case be remanded to the Commission for further review based on the fact that the ALJ failed to adequately develop the record and failed to consider the issue of Plaintiff's obesity in making his decision. (See generally Dkt. No. 19.) More specifically, in his Report-Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Bianchini finds that the ALJ committed the following errors: (1) the ALJ failed to properly review and develop the record with respect to the treating physician's determination that (a) Plaintiff had the ability to perform light duty work and (b) Plaintiff's condition did not require surgery; (2) the ALJ gave too little weight to the opinion of the consultative examiner; (3) the ALJ failed to consider the nurse practitioner's evaluation, which references Plaintiff using a cane to ambulate; (4) the ALJ failed to address the impact of Plaintiff's obesity in evaluating Plaintiff's limitations; and (5) the ALJ failed to properly assess Plaintiff's RFC. (Dkt. No. 19, at Part III.B.)

Based on the deficiencies outlined above, Magistrate Judge Bianchini recommends that Plaintiff's case be remanded to the Commissioner for further development of the record. (Id. at Part III.)

II. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Standard Governing Review of 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).*fn1 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.*fn2

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.*fn3 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.*fn4 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: 1983 Addition. When performing such a "clear error" review, "the court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." Id.*fn5

After conducting 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 the Commission's decision, and the five-step process for evaluating claims of disability under the Social Security Act. (Dkt. No.19, at Part III.A.) As a result, these standards are incorporated by reference in this Decision and Order, which (again) is intended primarily for the review of the parties.

III. ANALYSIS

After carefully reviewing all of the papers herein, including Magistrate Judge Bianchini's thorough Report-Recommendation, the Court concludes that Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation is correct in all respects. Magistrate Judge Bianchini employed the proper standards, accurately recited the facts, and reasonably applied the law to those facts. As a result, the Report-Recommendation is accepted and adopted in its entirety for the reasons stated therein.

ACCORDINGLY, it is

ORDERED that Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation (Dkt. No. 19) is ACCEPTED and ADOPTED in its entirety; and it is further

ORDERED that Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. No. 15) is DENIED; and it is further

ORDERED that Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. No. 13) is GRANTED; and it is further

ORDERED that this action is REMANDED to the Commissioner for further proceedings pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).


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