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Clasen v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 24, 2015

ERICK CLASEN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

PETER A. GORTON, ESQ., Lachman, Gorton Law Firm, Endicott, NY, For the Plaintiff

JEREMY A. LINDEN, REBECCA H. ESTELLE, Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys, 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 Erick Clasen challenges defendant Commissioner of Social Security's denial of Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), seeking review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) In a Report and Recommendation (R&R) filed November 7, 2014, Magistrate Judge Earl S. Hines recommended that the Commissioner's decision be reversed. (Dkt. No. 20.) Pending are the Commissioner's objections to the R&R. (Dkt. No. 22.) For the reasons that follow, the court declines to adopt the Magistrate Judge's Recommendation, and affirms the Commissioner's decision.

II. Background[1]

On June 18, 2011, Clasen filed an application for DIB under the Social Security Act. (Tr.[2] at 97, 163-69.) After his application was denied, Clasen requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on January 11, 2013. ( Id. at 63-96, 105-10.) On February 25, 2013, 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 1-14, 30-52.)

Clasen commenced the present action by filing a complaint on November 7, 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. 20.)

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 find that Clasen's fatigue constituted a severe impairment at step two of the disability evaluation was, at most, harmless; and (2) the ALJ applied incorrect principles of law when weighing relevant medical opinion and subjective evidence to determine Clasen's residual functional capacity (RFC). (Dkt. No. 20 at 4-18.) Specifically, Judge Hines concluded that the ALJ's RFC determination "turned on a perceived lack of objective evidence" contrary to the Second Circuit's instruction in Green-Younger v. Barnhart, 335 F.3d 99, 108 (2d Cir. 2003), that fibromyalgia can be a disabling impairment, although no objective tests can conclusively confirm the disease. ( Id. at 14-18). Because he recommended the case be remanded, Judge Hines did not address Clasen's remaining points relating to the ALJ's mental RFC determination and step five determination. ( Id. at 18.) The Commissioner raises one specific objection to the R&R, which the court will review de novo. In particular, the ...


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