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Thompson v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. New York

December 29, 2014

VANTROY THOMPSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

OPINION & ORDER

PAUL A. ENGELMAYER, District Judge.

Plaintiff Vantroy Thompson brings this action pursuant to § 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner"), which denied Thompson's application for supplemental security income ("SSI") benefits. Thompson moved for an order remanding this action to the Commission, and the Commissioner cross-moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(c). Before the Court is the July 7, 2014 Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Henry B. Pitman, recommending that the Court deny Thompson's motion and grant the Commissioner's motion. Dkt. 22 (the "Report"). For the following reasons, the Court adopts the Report in full, finding it thorough and persuasive.

I. Background[1]

Thompson, who is now 56 years old, claims that he became disabled on October 2, 2005 due to post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and depression. He briefly worked as a porter at an apartment building from July through October 2008, but he left that position because it required him to interact with other people.

On December 5, 2008, Thompson filed an application for SSI benefits. After the Social Security Administration denied his application on March 18, 2009, he requested and was granted a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). On June 29, 2010, Thompson testified at a hearing before ALJ Mark Solomon.

On August 20, 2010, the All issued a decision concluding that Thompson was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. In reaching that conclusion, the ALJ assigned "some weight" to, but also discounted, the opinion of one of Thompson's treating physicians, and declined to contact her before discounting her opinion. The Appeals Council denied Thompson's request for review of the ALJ's decision, making the ALJ's decision the Commissioner's final decision.

On September 18, 2012, Thompson commenced this action. See Dkt. 2 ("Complaint"). The Complaint asserts that the ALJ's decision was not supported by substantial evidence and was predicated on multiple legal errors. Id. On September 20, 2012, the Court referred this case to Judge Pitman. Dkt. 6. On January 18, 2013, the Commissioner answered. Dkt. 9.

On March 27, 2013, Thompson filed a motion to reverse and remand the Commissioner's decision, Dkt. 12, along with a supporting memorandum of law, Dkt. 13 ("Thompson Br."). On September 13, 2013, the Commissioner filed a cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings, Dkt. 18, and a supporting memorandum of law, Dkt. 19 ("Comm'r Br."). On October 4, 2013, Thompson filed a reply to the Commissioner's cross-motion. Dkt. 21.

On July 7, 2014, Judge Pitman issued the Report, recommending that the Court deny Thompson's motion to remand and grant the Commissioner's cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings. Dkt. 22. On August 15, 2014, Thompson filed objections to the Report. Dkt. 24 ("Thompson Obj."). On October 10, 2014, the Commissioner filed a response to Thompson's objections. Dkt. 27 ("Comm'r Resp, ").

II. Discussion

A. Applicable Legal Standards

"A district court may set aside the Commissioner's determination that a claimant is not disabled only if the factual findings are not supported by substantial evidence' or if the decision is based on legal error." Burgess v. Astrue, 537 F.3d 117, 127 (2d Cir. 2008) (citation omitted); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). "Substantial evidence means more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Burgess, 537 F.3d at 127 (citation omitted).

In reviewing a Report and Recommendation, 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). To accept those portions of the report to which no timely objection has been made, "a district court need only satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record." Carlson v. Dep't of Justice, No. 10 Civ. 5149 (PAE) (KNF), 2012 WL 928124, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. Mar, 19, 2012) (citation omitted); see also Wilds v. United Parcel Serv., 262 F.Supp.2d 163, 169 (S.D.N.Y. 2003). Where a party timely objects to a Report and Recommendation, the district court reviews those portions of the report to which the party objected de novo. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). However, "it is well-settled that when the objections simply reiterate previous arguments or make only conclusory statements, the Court should review the report for clear error." Dickerson v. Conway, No. 08 Civ. 8024 (PAE) (FM), 2013 WL 3199094, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. June 25, 2013); accord Kirk v. Burge, 646 F.Supp.2d 534, 538 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (collecting cases). That is, "[r]eviewing courts should review ...


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