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King v. Astrue

United States District Court, Second Circuit

June 21, 2013



MICHAEL A. TELESCA, District Judge.


Represented by counsel, Murray Lamont King, Jr. ("Plaintiff" or "King), brings this action pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner") denying his application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). The Court has jurisdiction over this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 405(g).

Presently before the Court are the parties' competing motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the reasons set forth below, this Court finds that the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence in the record and is in accordance with the applicable legal standards. Therefore, this Court hereby grants the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings and denies the Plaintiff's motion.


On March 16, 2010, Murray Lamont King, Jr. filed an application for SSI, claiming that he was disabled due to gunshot wounds in the right leg and mental health issues beginning on March 6, 2010. Administrative Transcript ("Tr.") at 148-60, 153. King's claim was denied on June 22, 2010. Tr. at 61. At his request, an administrative hearing was conducted on March 30, 2011, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Mark Sochaczewsky, who presided via videoconference. Tr. at 32-52. King, who was represented by attorney Kelly Laga, testified at the hearing, as did vocational expert Peter A. Manzi, Ed. D. ("Manzi" or "the VE").

On May 10, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision finding that King was not disabled during the period from his alleged onset date. Tr. at 19. On February 13, 2012, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Tr. at 1-3. This action followed on April 11, 2012.


At the time of the hearing, Plaintiff was a 27 year old individual with a high school education and one year of college completed. His past relevant work was as a retail salesman, mover, stock clerk, telemarketer, van driver, and fast food worker. Tr. at 25. King claims he became disabled on March 6, 2010 due to the residual effects of gunshot wounds to the right hip and right knee, resulting in significant pain in his right hip and numbness across the anterior portion of the knee. He also claims to have asthma as well as difficulty sleeping and mental health issues, such as diagnosed depressive disorder, history of substance abuse, reported hallucinations, anxiety, and Post-traumatic Stress Disorder from past assaults. Tr. at 214-215, 256-260, 337-338.

The Plaintiff's physical impairments are the result of sustaining gunshot wounds to his right hip and knee on March 6, 2010. Tr. at 218. Following the incident, the Plaintiff went to Strong Behavioral Health for treatment on April 1, 2010. He claimed to have significant pain and asked for a cane to assist him in walking. Tr. at 245-249. The attending physician, Zaneb Yaseen, M.D., observed Plaintiff had pain in the right hip and limited hip rotation indicating "some debility." Tr. at 247. Dr. Yaseen prescribed him a cane and advised him to follow up in four weeks. Tr. at 247.

On June 14, 2010, about two months after sustaining the gunshot wounds, consultative physician Harbinder Toor, M.D., conducted an internal medicine examination. Tr. at 260-263. Dr. Toor noted a scar from a gunshot wound to the chest that occurred in January 2008. Tr. at 262. Medical records from the time of that incident indicate that there was no evidence of injuries to the internal organs other than a minor lung injury and a fractured rib. Tr. at 216, 230, 235-236.

Dr. Toor observed that Plaintiff was in moderate pain and opined that Plaintiff had moderate to severe limitations in standing, walking, and heavy lifting, as well as moderate limitations in sitting for prolonged periods. Tr. at 261, 263. Dr. Toor advised that Plaintiff should avoid heavy exertion and pulmonary irritants due to his asthma. Tr. at 263.

On August 6, 2010, Plaintiff went to the University of Rochester Department of Orthopedics reporting pain in his right hip and knee. Tr. at 320-321. Susan Sims, M.D., conducted an examination, noting that Plaintiff walked with a cane. Tr. at 320. Dr. Sims also noted that Plaintiff had weakness in the right leg, and she suggested he partake in physical therapy before the doctors consider removing bullet fragments. Tr. at 320.

King has a history of marijuana and alcohol abuse. He engaged in outpatient treatment programs at St. Mary's Mental Health from December 2003 to September 2004. Tr. at 205. He testified at his administrative hearing that he had last used drugs approximately 1½ years prior to the hearing. Tr. at 37. His participation in treatment programs was marked by absenteeism and occasional positive drug screens. Tr. at 206-207.

On May 4, 2010, Plaintiff went to the Rochester Mental Health Center, an outpatient clinic for adults with mental and behavioral health issues. Tr. at 253-255. At that time, he was homeless and residing in a shelter. He presented with symptoms of depression, psychotic disorder, and substance abuse, complaining of visual hallucinations, low mood, sleeplessness, and negative thoughts. Tr. at 254. He was prescribed the medications Citalopram and Trazadone. His Global Assessment of Functioning ("GAF") score was 50. Tr. at 254.

On June 14, 2010, Kavitha Finnity, Ph.D. completed a psychiatric evaluation of Plaintiff. Tr. at 256-259. Dr. Finnity diagnosed Plaintiff with depression and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder ("PTSD"). Dr. Finnity noted that Plaintiff walked with a cane and was able to dress, bathe, and groom himself, as well as cook, clean, do laundry, shop, and manage his money. Tr. at 258. In a medical source statement, Dr. Finnity opined that Plaintiff could follow simple directions; perform simple tasks; maintain a regular schedule; learn new tasks; perform complex tasks; and make appropriate decisions; but that he may have some difficulty with attention and concentration, relating to others and dealing with stress. Tr. at 258.

On June 18, 2010, A. Hochberg, a State agency review psychologist, evaluated the record to assess Plaintiff's mental residual functional capacity ("RFC"). Tr. at 264-277. The psychologist reported that Plaintiff was mildly limited in activities of daily living and maintaining social functioning. The psychologist also reported that ...

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