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Zongos v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. New York

February 25, 2014

SHARI ZONGOS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commission of Social Security, Defendant.

HOWARD D. OLINSKY, ESQ., Olinsky Law Group, Syracuse, NY, for the plaintiff.

VERNON NORWOOD, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, RICHARD S. HARTUNIAN, United States Attorney, Syracuse, NY, Steven P. Conte, Regional Chief Counsel, Social Security Administration, Office of General Counsel, Region II, New York, NY, for the defendant.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

GARY L. SHARPE, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Shari Zongos challenges defendant Commissioner of Social Security's denial of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), seeking review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).[1] (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) In a Report and Recommendation (R&R) filed October 29, 2013, Magistrate Judge Earl S. Hines recommended that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed. (Dkt. No. 15.) Pending are Zongos' objections to the R&R. (Dkt. No. 16.) For the reasons that follow, the court adopts the R&R in its entirety.

II. Background[2]

On October 26, 2009, Zongos filed an application for SSI under the Social Security Act. (Tr.[3] at 107, 162-66.) After her application was denied, Zongos requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on December 13, 2010. ( Id. at 57-106, 108, 112-14.) On June 16, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision denying the requested benefits, which became the Commissioner's final determination upon the Social Security Administration Appeals Council's denial of review. ( Id. at 8-10, 14-30.)

Zongos commenced the present action by filing a complaint on June 20, 2012, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's determination. (Compl.) After receiving the parties' briefs, Judge Hines issued an R&R recommending the Commissioner's decision be affirmed. ( See generally Dkt. No. 15.)

III. Standard of Review

By statute and rule, district courts are authorized to refer social security appeals to magistrate judges for proposed findings and recommendations as to disposition. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A), (B); N.D.N.Y. L.R. 40.1, 72.3(d); General Order No. 18. Before entering final judgment, this court reviews report and recommendation orders in cases it has referred to a magistrate judge. If a party properly objects to a specific element of the magistrate judge's findings and recommendations, this court reviews those findings and recommendations de novo. See Almonte v. N.Y. State Div. of Parole, No. Civ. 904CV484GLS, 2006 WL 149049, at *3, *5 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 18, 2006). In cases where no party has filed an objection, only vague or general objections are made, or a party resubmits the same papers and arguments already considered by the magistrate judge, this court reviews the findings and recommendations of the magistrate judge for clear error. See id. at *4-5.

IV. Discussion

Zongos raises one specific objection to the R&R regarding the ALJ's residual functional capacity (RFC)[4] determination, which the court will review de novo. [5] The remainder of the R&R will be reviewed for clear error.

A. RFC Determination

Zongos objects to Judge Hines' conclusion that the ALJ's RFC determination is supported by substantial evidence.[6] (Dkt. No. 16 at 1-4.) According to Zongos, Judge Hines incorrectly found that the ALJ properly weighed the opinions of treating physician ...


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