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Kelli Anne Bentley v. Commissioner of Social Security

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK


November 20, 2012

KELLI ANNE BENTLEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
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 filed by Kelli Anne Bentley ("Plaintiff") against the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking Social Security benefits, is the Report-Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Andrew T. Baxter, 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 decision be affirmed, and that Plaintiff's Complaint be dismissed. (Dkt. No. 16.) For the reasons set forth below, the Report-Recommendation is adopted.

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Because neither party has objected to Part I of Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation, setting forth the procedural background of this action, the Court adopts that part's description in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for review of the parties. (See generally Dkt. No. 16, at Part I [Report-Rec].)

On September 18, 2007, Plaintiff applied for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") under the Social Security Act alleging a disability as of May 1, 2000, which left her unable to work.*fn1 (See Administrative Transcript ["T."] at 147-161.)*fn2 After Plaintiff's application was subsequently denied by the Social Security Administration, Plaintiff appealed; and on January 6, 2010, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") of the Social Security Administration (T. at 650-74), and a subsequent hearing was held by the same ALJ on July 26, 2010 (T. at 26-55).

On August 19, 2012, the ALJ issued her decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled at any time from her amended onset date of November 5, 2004 until the expiration of her insured status on March 31, 2005. (T. at 7-25.) Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council; and on August 12, 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 September 19, 2011, Plaintiff commenced this action in federal court. (Dkt. No. 1.)

Generally, in her brief in support of her Complaint, Plaintiff asserts the following four arguments: (1) the Commissioner erred in finding that Plaintiff's depression and anxiety are not severe impairments (Dkt. No. 11, at Point I); (2) the Commissioner erred by failing to properly evaluate Plaintiff's credibility and complaints of disabling pain (id. at Point II); (3) the Commissioner erred in determining Plaintiff's RFC (id. at Point III); and (4) the Commissioner erred by failing to consider Plaintiff's appeal from the denial of her application for supplemental security income benefits from March 31, 2005, present (id. at Point IV).

Generally, in his brief in response to Plaintiff's brief, Defendant disagrees with each of these four arguments, and argues that the Commissioner's decision should be affirmed. (Dkt. No. 15.)

B. Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation

On August 31, 2012, Magistrate Judge Baxter issued a Report-Recommendation recommending that Plaintiff's case be dismissed. (Dkt. No. 16.) Generally, the Report-Recommendation was based on the following findings and conclusions: (1) the ALJ properly determined, based on substantial evidence, that Plaintiff's depression and/or anxiety had only a minimal affect on her ability to perform daily activities and that medical treatment was effective in alleviating her symptoms; (2) the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff's subjective complaints of pain were inconsistent with evidence in the record, including the testimony of an independent medical examiner, was correct in all respects; (3) because there was limited record evidence of Plaintiff's physical limitations for the period in question, the ALJ requested and properly relied upon the medical examiner's updated report and RFC evaluation in determining that Plaintiff's RFC did not limit her ability to perform her prior job; and (4) Plaintiff's fourth argument cannot succeed under the circumstances (in part because she failed to appeal, and there is no duty that the staff ensure that plaintiff perfects the appeal in a timely manner). (Id. at Parts IV and VIII.)

Neither party filed an Objection to the Report-Recommendation, and the deadline by which to do so has expired. (See generally Docket Sheet.)

II. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Standard of Review of Magistrate Judge Baxter's 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).*fn3

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.*fn4

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.*fn5 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.*fn6 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.*fn7

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 of his Report-Recommendation, Magistrate Judge Baxter correctly recited the legal standard governing judicial review of Defendant's decision. (Dkt. No.16 at Part III.) As a result, this standard is 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 in this action, the Court concludes that Magistrate Judge Baxter's thorough Report-Recommendation is correct in all respects. (Dkt. No. 16.) Magistrate Judge Baxter employed the proper standards, accurately recited the facts, and reasonably applied the law to those facts. (Id.) As a result, the Court accepts and adopts the Report-Recommendation in its entirety for the reasons stated therein.

ACCORDINGLY, it is

ORDERED that Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation (Dkt. No. 16) is ACCEPTED and ADOPTED in its entirety; and it is further

ORDERED that Plaintiff's Complaint (Dkt. No. 1) is DISMISSED.


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