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Paul A. Schlichting v. Michael J. Astrue

September 11, 2012


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


Currently before the Court, in this action filed by Paul A. Schlichting ("Plaintiff") against Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue ("Defendant") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) seeking supplemental social security income benefits ("SSI") and disability insurance benefits ("DIB"), 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. 13); (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 Defendant's motion be granted, Plaintiff's motion be denied, and this action be dismissed in its entirety (Dkt. No. 15); (4) Plaintiff's Objections to the Report-Recommendation (Dkt. No. 16); and (5) Defendant's Response to Plaintiff's Objections (Dkt. No. 17.). For the reasons set forth below, Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendations is accepted and adopted in its entirety.


A. Procedural History

Because neither party has objected to Part II of Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation, which correctly sets forth the procedural background of this action, the Court adopts that part's description of this action's procedural background for purposes of this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for the review of the parties. (See generally Dkt. No. 15, at Part II [Report-Rec].) The Court would add only the following brief summary of the case's procedural history.

On December 11, 2007, Plaintiff applied for SSI and DIB under the Social Security Act alleging a disability onset date of December 12, 2004. (See Administrative Transcript ["T."] at 93-104.)*fn1 Plaintiff's application was initially denied by the Social Security Administration. Thereafter, Plaintiff appealed from the decision; and on September 14, 2009, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") of the Social Security Administration. (T. at 25-41.)

On October 28, 2009, the ALJ issued his decision denying Plaintiff's application for benefits. (T. at 12-20.) In his decision, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment of combination of impairments which meet or medically equal any of the listed impairments pursuant to 20 CFR Part 404(P)(1). (T. at 15-16.)

On January 26, 2011, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of Defendant. (T. at 1-6.) On March 17, 2011, Plaintiff commenced this action in this Court. (Dkt. No. 1.)

Generally, in his motion, Plaintiff asserts the following four arguments: (1) the ALJ erred by failing to give controlling weight to the medical opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician; (2) the ALJ erred by failing to properly assess Plaintiff's credibility; (3) the ALJ erred by failing to consider the Plaintiff's Global Functioning Assessment ("GAF") score; and (4) the ALJ failed to recognize Plaintiff's alcohol recovery counseling qualified as mental health treatment. (Dkt. No. 11.)

Generally, in his motion, Defendant disagrees with each of these arguments, and argues that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed. (Dkt. No. 13.)

B. Magistrate Judge Bianchini's Report-Recommendation

Generally, in his Report-Recommendation recommending that Defendant's decision denying Plaintiff Social Security benefits be affirmed and that Plaintiff's Complaint be dismissed, Magistrate Judge Bianchini found as follows: (1) the ALJ correctly determined, based on substantial record evidence, that the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician should not be given controlling weight as the treating physician was not a specialist in mental health and the duration of treatment relationship was limited to six visits; (2) as to Plaintiff's credibility assessment, the ALJ correctly determined that Plaintiff's claims of debilitating pain were inconsistent with evidence in the record; (3) the ALJ's failure to note Plaintiff's GAF score does not amount to reversible error, because substantial evidence in the record supported Plaintiff's Residual Functional Capacity ("RFC") assessment; and (4) the ALJ's RFC assessment is supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 15, at Part III.C.)

C. Plaintiff's Objections to the Report-Recommendation

Generally, in his Objection to the Report-Recommendation, Plaintiff asserts the following three arguments: (1) as Plaintiff argued in his underlying motion for judgment on the pleadings, the ALJ did not properly apply the treating physician rule, the ALJ did not properly assess claimant's credibility, the ALJ improperly failed to consider a GAF score, and the ALJ mischaracterized the nature of Plaintiff's alcohol counseling; (2) with regard to the ALJ's credibility determination, the ALJ erred in assessing Plaintiff's credibility, because the ALJ must not draw an "adverse inference" from a claimant's failure to seek treatment without considering other evidence in the record and/or the claimant's explanations for that failure; and (3) the ALJ should have given the opinion of ...

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