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Lavalley v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. New York

September 29, 2014

ROXANNE LAVALLEY, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MARK A. SCHNEIDER ESQ., Office of Mark A. Schneider, Plattsburgh, NY, for the Plaintiff.

PETER W. JEWETT, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, HON. 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 Roxanne LaValley challenges the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), seeking judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) After reviewing the administrative record and carefully considering LaValley's arguments, the Commissioner's decision is reversed and remanded.

II. Background

On February 1, 2011, LaValley filed an application for DIB under the Social Security Act ("the Act"), alleging disability since August 18, 2010. (Tr.[1] at 46, 128-32.) After her application was denied, ( id. at 56-61), LaValley requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on April 3, 2012, ( id. at 28-45, 65-66). On April 23, 2012, the ALJ issued an unfavorable 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 1-6, 10-27.)

LaValley commenced the present action by filing her complaint on March 21, 2013 wherein she sought review of the Commissioner's determination. (Compl.) The Commissioner filed an answer and a certified copy of the administrative transcript. (Dkt. Nos. 7, 8.) Each party, seeking judgment on the pleadings, filed a brief. (Dkt. Nos. 14, 15.)

III. Contentions

LaValley contends that the Commissioner's decision is tainted by legal error and is not supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 14 at 11-39.) Specifically, LaValley claims that the ALJ failed to: (1) follow the treating physician rule; (2) consider the combined effects of her arthritis, pain, obesity, and depression; and (3) properly evaluate her credibility. ( Id. ) The Commissioner counters that the appropriate legal standards were used by the ALJ and his decision is also supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 15 at 5-10.)

IV. Facts

The court adopts the parties' undisputed factual recitations. (Dkt. No. 14 at 2-10; Dkt. No. 15 at 2.)

V. Standard of Review

The standard for reviewing the Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is well established and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standard and the five-step process by which the Commissioner evaluates whether a claimant is disabled under the Act, the court refers the parties to its previous decision in Christiana v. ...


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