United States District Court, S.D. New York
Jose A. DeJesus, Plaintiff,
Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
ALISON J. NATHAN, District Judge.
Plaintiff Jose A. DeJesus brings this action seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") regarding his February 9, 2011, application for supplemental security income ("S SI") benefits. That decision found that Plaintiff was disabled on February 1, 2011, but that his disability ended due to medical improvement on February 9, 2012. See R. 38.
Plaintiff moves for judgment on the pleadings, pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, requesting that the decision of the Commissioner be reversed and remanded for further proceedings. Dkt. No. 19. The Commissioner cross-moves, seeking affirmance of their decision. Dkt. No. 24. On August 6, 2014, the Honorable Henry B. Pitman, Untied States Magistrate Judge, issued a report and recommendation ("R&R") recommending that the Court grant the motion of the Plaintiff, deny the motion of the Commissioner, and remand the for further proceedings. Dkt. No. 27. Before the Court are the Commissioner's timely objections to the R&R. Dkt. No. 29.
This order assumes familiarity with the facts of the case, which are laid on in detail in the R & R. Unless otherwise noted, they are incorporated by reference herein. Having reviewed de novo the Administrative Record, the R&R, and the Commissioner's Objections, the Court adopts the R&R,  and remands the case for further administrative proceedings.
I. Standard of Review
A district 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). When a party properly objects to the magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations, a district court must "make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." Id.
In order to merit de novo review, a party's objections must be specific rather than conclusory or general. See Watson v. Geithner , No. 11-cv-9527 (AJN) (HBP), 2013 WL 5441748, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 27, 2013) (citing Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2)). The objections must, furthermore, have been raised before the magistrate judge, for "a party waives any arguments not presented to the magistrate judge." Id. (citing Tarafa v. Artus , No. 10-cv-3879 (AJN) (HBP), 2013 WL 3789089, at *2 (S.D.N.Y. July 18, 2013)). While courts in this district sometimes state that objections that "simply reiterate the original arguments" merit only clear error review, see, e.g. , Jones v. Astrue , No. 09-cv-5577 (DAB), 2012 WL 4473258, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 28, 2012), this rule lacks support in either 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C) or Rule 72(b)(2), and is, moreover, at odds with the rule regarding waiver, see Watson , 2013 WL 5441748, at *2.
In this case, the Commissioner objects to the Magistrate Judge's findings that (1) "the Administrative Law Judge ("ALF) committed reversible error by not requesting an updated functional capacity assessment from Plaintiff's treating physician during the period where the ALJ found that medial improvement occurred, " and (2) "the ALJ's deficient development of the record from November 2011 onward prevented the Magistrate Judge from determining whether the ALJ's credibility determination, which relied in part on the absence of objective medical evidence, was supported by substantial evidence." Dkt. No. 29, at 1. Because these objections are specific and were raised before the Magistrate Judge, the Court reviews the objected-to portions of the R&R de novo.
A. Standard of Review
When reviewing a decision of the Commissioner, a court may "enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision..., with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The reviewing court "is limited to determining whether the [Commissioner's] conclusions were supported by substantial evidence in the record and were based on a correct legal standard." Selian v. Astrue , 708 F.3d 409, 417 (2d Cir. 2013). "When there are gaps in the administrative record or the ALJ has applied an improper legal standard, " remand to the Commissioner for further development of the evidence may be appropriate. Pratts v. Chater , 94 F.3d 34, 39 (2d Cir. 1996).
B. Development of the Record
The Court first addresses the Commissioner's objection that, contrary to the conclusion of the R&R, the ALJ adequately developed the record. See Dkt. No. 29, 1. In the R&R, the Magistrate Judge agreed with Plaintiff's argument that the ALJ committed legal error by concluding that Plaintiff's disability ended due to medical improvement on February 9, 2012, without "taking reasonable efforts to secure an updated report from Dr. Ashraf, " Plaintiff's treating physician, for the period of Plaintiff's alleged medical improvement. R&R 29. For the ...