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Soto v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, S.D. New York

June 8, 2015

VINCENT SOTO, Plaintiff,


JAMES L. COTT, Magistrate Judge.

To The Honorable George B. Daniels, United States District Judge:

Prose plaintiff Vincent Soto seeks judicial review of a final determination by the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"), denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). The Commissioner has moved for an order reversing the Commissioner's decision and remanding Soto's case to the Social Security Administration ("SSA") for further administrative proceedings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to which Soto submitted no opposition. For the reasons discussed below, I recommend that the motion be granted.


A. Procedural History

Soto filed applications for DIB and SSI on October 25, 2011. Administrative Record ("R.") at 60-65, 66-74, 101.[1] Soto claimed disability beginning on November 8, 2008 due to Human Immunodeficiency Virus ("HIV"). Id. at 60, 66.[2] The SSA denied both of his applications on December 15, 2011. Id. at 23-30. On February 14, 2012, Soto filed a request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ''). Id. at 31-33. Appearing without an attorney or non-legal representative, Soto testified at a hearing held before ALJ Sean Walsh on January 23, 2013. Id. at 17-22. The ALJ found that Soto was not disabled and denied his claims in a written decision dated February 8, 2013. Id. at 6-14. The ALJ's determination became the Commissioner's final decision when the SSA Appeals Council denied Soto's request for review on May 28, 2014. Id. at 1-3.

Soto timely commenced the current action on June 9, 2014, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยงยง 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). See Complaint ("Compl.") (Dkt. No. 2). On February 18, 2015, the Commissioner filed her Answer (Dkt. No. 18) and moved for an order reversing the Commissioner's final decision and remanding the case for further administrative proceedings. See Notice of Motion to Remand (Dkt. No. 21); Memorandum of Law in Support of Defendant's Motion to Remand ("Def. Mem.") (Dkt. No. 22).[3] Soto has not submitted any response in opposition to the Commissioner's motion.

B. The Administrative Record

1. Soto's Background

Soto was born on February 26, 1963, and was 45 years old on the onset date of his alleged disability. R. at 60, 66; see id. 13. Soto lives in the Bronx, New York, has a GED and an Associate's Degree in Culinary Arts from Monroe College. Id. at 20, 114. He is married to Felicia Placencia. Id. at 61, 104. Between 1994 and 2008, Soto worked at various times as a boiler delivery person, forklift operator, packing clerk, shipping clerk, and performed other types oflabor and maintenance work. Id. at 89-99. He stopped working as a boiler delivery person in November 8, 2008 because he was "laid off." Id. at 105. At the time of the hearing in January 2013, Soto was working full-time as a shoe salesman. Id. at 19-20; see id. at 13.

Soto was diagnosed as HIV positive in 2002 and takes antiviral medications to control the disease. Id. at 21, 139, 141, 146. In his submissions to the SSA, Soto indicated that his daily activities include watching television, going to school, and doing activities at home. Id. at 112. He is able to prepare his own meals and attend to his personal needs without assistance. Id. at 112-15. Soto also reported that he regularly spends time with friends and relatives, walks for approximately one hour each day, and can do "mostly everything" he could do before the onset of his illness. Id. at 112, 115-17. Nevertheless, Soto indicated that his illness causes him to rest more often. Id. at 114. In addition, he cannot stand longer than 30 minutes due to foot pain, cannot sit for a long period of time due to discomfort, and runs out of breath if he attempts to reach for an object that is high up. Id. at 116-17.

2. Medical Evidence

The medical evidence consists of records documenting three visits to the Comprehensive Care Center of Bronx-Lebanon Hospital in July, August, and October 2011 respectively, and results of laboratory tests performed in 2009. Id. at 144-51, 152-55. The hospital records indicate that, between July and October 2011, Soto appeared to be responding well to his HIV medication and was asymptomatic. Id. at 144-51. The administrative record notes that Soto had another outpatient visit at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center in February 2012, during which a blood test unrelated to HIV was performed, although no hospital record of this visit or of the blood test results are included in the SSA record. Id. at 123-26. Soto also reported to the SSA that he saw Dr. Anupama Menon at Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center on November 26, 2012, who told Soto that he was "stable ...

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