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Hernandez v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. New York

January 22, 2015

SIGFRIDO HERNANDEZ, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

Office of Peter M. Margolius, PETER M. MARGOLIUS, ESQ., Catskill, NY, for the Plaintiff.

HON. RICHARD S. HARTUNIAN, United States Attorney, DAVID B. MYERS, 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, District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Sigfrido Hernandez 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).[1] (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) In a Report and Recommendation (R&R) filed October 14, 2014, Magistrate Judge Earl S. Hines recommended that the Commissioner's decision be reversed and remanded. (Dkt. No. 14.) Pending are the Commissioner'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[2]

On July 30, 2010, Hernandez filed applications for DIB and SSI under the Social Security Act. (Tr.[3] at 50-51, 100-10.) After his applications were denied, Hernandez requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on November 1, 2011 ( Id. at 32-49, 54-66.) On November 23, 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 1-6, 18-31.)

Hernandez commenced the present action by filing a complaint on August 12, 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 reversed and remanded. ( See generally Dkt. No. 14.)

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

The Commissioner raises one specific objection to the R&R, which the court will review de novo. The remainder of the R&R will be reviewed for clear error.

A. Medical Source Statement

The Commissioner objects to Judge Hines' conclusion that the ALJ's residual functional capacity (RFC)[4] determination was not supported by substantial evidence because the ALJ made such determination in the absence of any acceptable medical source opinion concerning Hernandez's functional limitations. (Dkt. No. 16 at 1-6.) In Judge Hines' view, the ALJ required the assessment of a treating or consulting physician to interpret the raw medical data before him. (Dkt. No. 14 at 13-15.) According to the Commissioner, however, the lack of a medical source statement does not make the administrative ...


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