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Singleton v. Colvin

United States District Court, S.D. New York

March 31, 2015

WALTER SINGLETON, Petitioner,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Respondent.

ORDER

PAUL G. GARDEPHE, District Judge.

Pro se Petitioner Walter Singleton challenges the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his September 21, 2011 applications for disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") benefits. Petitioner's applications were denied on the grounds that he had not demonstrated that he was disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. (Dkt. No. 2 ¶ 6) Petitioner seeks an order "modify[ing] the decision of the [D]efendant" and "grant[ing] [him] maximum monthly disability insurance benefits and/or Supplemental Security Income benefits, retroactive to the date of initial disability...." (Id. at 2-3) In the alternative, Petitioner seeks an order "remand[ing] the case to the Commissioner of Social Security for reconsideration of the evidence...." (Id.) On July 8, 2013, this Court referred this case to the Honorable Frank Maas, United States Magistrate Judge. (Dkt. No. 7) The Commissioner subsequently filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). (Dkt. No. 19)

On March 2, 2015, Judge Maas issued a Report and Recommendation ("R & R") recommending that the Commissioner's motion be granted. (R & R (Dkt. No. 27)) The R & R notifies the parties that they have fourteen days from service of the R & R to file any objections pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) and Rules 6(a), 6(e), and 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (Id. at 26) The R & R further states that "[t]he failure to file timely objections will result in a waiver of those objections for purposes of appeal." (Id.)

On March 18, 2015, this Court received an undated note from Petitioner stating, in pertinent part, as follows:

I am writing you this letter... in response to the 14 day time period[.] I have an objection [to] this report and recommendation, I am asking that this ruling... be overturned or [if] [we can] schedule a court date for [a] fair hearing so th[at] [the Court] has [a] better understanding of this situation[.] [I]t has been years now and I am still disabled with a few surger[ies] pending[.] I hope that we can get this case resolved or come to a conclusion as soon as possible[.] I have medical records for that time period but I can't afford to make copies of all of them....

(Dkt. No. 28)[1] This Court interprets Petitioner's letter as (1) requesting leave to submit new evidence to support his case, and (2) making a general objection to Judge Maas's findings in the R & R.

LEGAL STANDARD

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). When a timely objection has been made to the magistrate judge's recommendations, the district court judge "shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." Id . "If, however, the party makes only conclusory or general objections, or simply reiterates his original arguments, the Court reviews the Report and Recommendation only for clear error.'" Thomas v. Astrue, 674 F.Supp.2d 507, 511 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (quoting Silva v. Peninsula Hotel, 509 F.Supp.2d 364, 366 (S.D.N.Y. 2007) (citations omitted)). A decision is "clearly erroneous" when, "upon review of the entire record, [the court is] left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed." United States v. Snow, 462 F.3d 55, 72 (2d Cir. 2006) (quotation marks and citation omitted).

Although "[t]he objections of parties appearing pro se are generally accorded leniency and should be construed to raise the strongest arguments that they suggest, " DiPilato v. 7-Eleven, Inc., 662 F.Supp.2d 333, 340 (S.D.N.Y. 2009) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), "[a] pro se party's objections to the Report and Recommendation must be specific and clearly aimed at particular findings in the magistrate's proposal....'" Cohen v. Astrue, No. 07 Civ. 535 (DAB) (HBP), 2011 WL 2565309, at *1 (S.D.N.Y. June 28, 2011) (quoting DiPilato, 662 F.Supp.2d at 340 (citation omitted)). "Parties may not attempt to relitigate the entire content of the hearing... [and] are not to be afforded a "second bite at the apple...."'" Thomas, 674 F.Supp.2d at 511 (quoting Camardo v. General Motors Hourly-Rate Emps. Pension Plan, 806 F.Supp. 380, 382 (W.D.N.Y. 1992)).

DISCUSSION

I. THE ADMINISTRATIVE RECORD

Judge Maas discusses the medical evidence and administrative record at length, and this Court will not repeat that exercise here. In summary, Petitioner was 34 years old when he applied for benefits. (R & R (Dkt. No. 27) at 3 (citing Administrative Record (Dkt. No. 13) ("A.R.") 76)) He had previously worked as an "environmental mediation technician, " and - at the time of the hearing before the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") - was working as a greeter at Walgreens. (Id. at 3-4 (citing A.R. 26, 29)) He hurt his right ankle while working as a "Hazmat supervisor, " and had taken Aleve for pain. (Id. at 4 (citing A.R. 26)) The Aleve damaged his kidneys. (Id. (citing A.R. 26)) At the time of the hearing, he reported high blood pressure, occasional chest pain, shortness of breath, drowsiness, and trouble sleeping. (Id. (citing A.R. 27-30)) Considered as a whole, the medical evidence in the record indicates that Petitioner is "[e]mployable with work limitations.'" (Id. at 8-11 (alteration in R & R) (citations omitted)) Petitioner cannot perform jobs that require heavy lifting, manual labor, or long periods of standing or walking. (Id. (citations omitted)) The ALJ concluded, however, that Petitioner had "the [capacity] to perform the full range of sedentary work" and that he was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. (Id. at 14)

II. REQUEST TO SUBMIT NEW EVIDENCE

As noted above, Petitioner has submitted a note to the Court stating that he has "medical records for that time period" and requesting "a court date for ...


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