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Duval v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. New York

September 16, 2014

JIMILIE M. DUVAL, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commission of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

CHRISTOPHER D. THORPE, ESQ., Iaconis Law Firm, Chittenango, NY, for the Plaintiff.

HON. RICHARD S. HARTUNIAN, United States Attorney, ELIZABETH D. ROTHSTEIN, Special Assistant U.S. 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 Jimilie M. Duval challenges defendant Commissioner of Social Security's denial of Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI), seeking review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) In a Report and Recommendation (R&R) filed April 4, 2014, Magistrate Judge Earl S. Hines recommended that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed. (Dkt. No. 13.) Pending are Duval's objections to the R&R. (Dkt. No. 16.) For the reasons that follow, the court adopts the R&R in its entirety.

II. Background[1]

On February 10 and March 9, 2010, Duval filed applications for SSI and DIB, respectively, under the Social Security Act. (Tr.[2] at 62-63, 145-52.) After her applications were denied, Duval requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on April 25, 2011. ( Id. at 26-60, 64-69, 73.) On June 9, 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 1-4, 10-25.)

Duval commenced the present action by filing a complaint on April 30, 2013, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's determination. (Compl.) After receiving the parties' briefs, Judge Hines issued an R&R recommending that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed. ( See generally Dkt. No. 13.)

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

In the R&R, Magistrate Judge Hines found that: (1) any error in failing to amend the alleged onset date was, at most, harmless; (2) the ALJ fully developed the record, and was not required to obtain a consultative intelligence examination; (3) the ALJ did not err in weighing the medical opinions of record; (4) the ALJ's assessment of Duval's subjective testimony was conducted under the correct legal standard and was supported by substantial evidence; and (5) substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision. (Dkt. No. 13 at 5-25.) In objecting to the R&R, Duval has repeated many of the same arguments raised before Judge Hines in her motion for judgment on the pleadings. ( See generally Dkt. Nos. 10, 16.) In particular, Duval objects to Judge Hines': (1) "error in determining [Duval's] attempt to amend the application to the appropriate onset date"; (2) conclusion that the record does not suggest any mental limitations requiring a consultative intelligence examination; (3) conclusion that the ALJ properly considered all favorable and unfavorable evidence; (4) application of the regulatory factors and case law in evaluating the weight given to the medical opinions of record and the ALJ's credibility determination; and (5) application of the law of the Second Circuit in evaluating whether the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 16 at 2-16.) As the substance of Duval's arguments with respect to the development of the record through consultative examination, and the existence of substantial evidence in support of the ALJ's decision was previously raised in her brief and considered and rejected by Judge Hines, (Dkt. No. 10 at 3-6, 17-18; Dkt. No. 13 at 8-10, 25), these "objections, " are general and do not warrant de novo review.[3] See Almonte, 2006 WL 149049 at *4. However, Duval's arguments with respect to the amended onset date, the weight afforded to the medical opinions of record, and the ALJ's credibility determination contain specific legal objections to Judge Hines' conclusions, and the court will review these objections to the R&R de novo.

A. Amended Onset Date

First, Duval argues that, due to a scrivener's error in her brief before Judge Hines, the court should reject Judge Hines' recommendation that there was no substantive error in the ALJ's failure to amend the alleged onset date. (Dkt. No. 16 at 2-3.) Duval's applications for SSI and DIB alleged the onset of disability on October 8, 2007. (Tr. at 145, 149.) Thereafter, in a "pre-hearing" memorandum, Duval's counsel indicated his intent to amend the alleged onset date to February 11, 2009 at the administrative hearing. ( Id. at 229.) Judge Hines noted in his decision that the onset date that Duval actually advocates as being correct is unclear, as she has, at various times, suggested four alternative dates-February 11, 2009, February 19, 2009, March 8, 2010, and October 8, 2010. (Dkt. No. 13 at 6.) However, Duval now contends that the reference to an onset date of October 8, 2010 in her brief before Judge Hines was inadvertent. (Dkt. No. 16 at 2; Dkt. No. 10 at 23.) In any event, Judge Hines' conclusion remains persuasive. In particular, Duval failed to move to amend the alleged onset date at the administrative hearing, her counsel failed to object to the admission of medical records pertaining to years prior to 2010, and, moreover, the ALJ received and considered evidence relating to the entire period from October 8, 2007 through the date of his decision. (Dkt. No. 13 at 7-8.) Thus, had Duval presented convincing ...


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