United States District Court, N.D. New York
THE DEHAAN LAW FIRM P.C., JOHN W. DEHAAN, ESQ., Hauppauge, New York, Attorney for Plaintiff,
SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION. SIXTINA FERNANDEZ, ESQ., Office of Regional General Counsel Region II, New York, New York, Attorneys for Defendant.
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
MAE A. D'AGOSTINO, District Judge.
On November 15, 2011, Plaintiff Raymond Paul Camarata (hereinafter "Plaintiff") protectively filed applications for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") and Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). See Dkt. No. 7-2 at 14. Plaintiff alleges that he has suffered from a "disability" within the meaning of the Social Security Act (the "Act") since November 7, 2011, due to "depression, anxiety disorder with panic attacks, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder ("ADHD"), borderline intellectual functioning, and a history of alcohol dependence." Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 4.
Defendant, the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (hereinafter "Commissioner") denied Plaintiff's applications on March 16, 2012. See Dkt. No. 7-4 at 6, 10. In response, Plaintiff made a timely request for a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), which took place by video before ALJ William M. Manico on December 18, 2012. See Dkt. No. 7-2 at 33-62; Dkt. No. 7-4 at 22. ALJ Manico issued an unfavorable decision on December 28, 2012, finding that Plaintiff's conditions do not qualify him as "disabled" under the Act and that Plaintiff is therefore not entitled to DIB benefits under §§ 216(i) and 223(d) or SSI benefits under § 1614. See Dkt. No. 7-2 at 14; Dkt. No. 7-4 at 6, 10. Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council, which denied review. See Dkt. No. 1 at ¶ 11.
On May 15, 2014, Plaintiff commenced this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking review of the Commissioner's unfavorable decision. See Dkt. No. 1 at ¶¶ 1, 6. The case was referred to United States Magistrate Judge Andrew T. Baxter for a Report-Recommendation, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 72.3(d). On June 6, 2015, Magistrate Judge Baxter recommended that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed and Plaintiff's complaint dismissed. See Dkt. No. 11 at 25.
Currently before the Court are Plaintiff's objections to Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation, which were submitted within the required fourteen day time period on June 16, 2015. See Dkt. No. 12.
When a party files specific objections to a magistrate judge's Report-Recommendation, the district court makes a " de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). However, when a party files "[g]eneral or conclusory objections or objections which merely recite the same arguments [that he presented] to the magistrate judge, " the court reviews those recommendations for clear error. O'Diah v. Mawhir, No. 9:08-CV-322, 2011 WL 933846, *1 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 16, 2011) (citations and footnote omitted). After the appropriate review, "the 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).
Here, Plaintiff's objections to the Report-Recommendation generally repeat the same arguments raised in his initial brief. See Dkt. No. 9 at 22, 30; Dkt. No. 11 at 9; Dkt. No. 12 at 2, 6. First, Plaintiff objects to Magistrate Judge Baxter's finding that ALJ Monico properly evaluated the medical opinion evidence contained in the Administrative Transcript. See Dkt. No. 12 at 2. In particular, Plaintiff claims that ALJ Monico failed to give sufficient weight to the RFC evaluation of nurse practitioner, Linda Talerico (hereinafter "Talerico"), and registered nurse, Donna Saville (hereinafter "Saville") and that he made various factual errors. See Dkt. No. 9 at 24; Dkt. No. 12 at 3.
In reviewing a final decision by the Commissioner under 42 U.S.C. § 405, the Court does not determine de novo whether a plaintiff is disabled. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3); Wagner v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 906 F.2d 856, 860 (2d Cir. 1990). Rather, the Court must examine the Administrative Transcript to ascertain whether the correct legal standards were applied, and whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence. See Shaw v. Chater, 221 F.3d 126, 131 (2d Cir. 2000); Schaal v. Apfel, 134 F.3d 496, 500-01 (2d Cir. 1998). "Substantial evidence" is evidence that amounts to "more than a mere scintilla, " and it has been defined as "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citations and quotations omitted).
If supported by substantial evidence, the Commissioner's factual determinations are conclusive, and it is not permitted for the courts to substitute their analysis of the evidence. See Rutherford v. Schweiker, 685 F.2d 60, 62 (2d Cir. 1982) (stating that the court "would be derelict in our duties if we simply paid lip service to this rule, while shaping [the Court's] holding to conform to our own interpretation of the evidence"). In other words, this Court must afford the Commissioner's determination considerable deference, and may not substitute "its own judgment for that of the [Commissioner], even if it might justifiably have reached a different result upon a de novo review." Valente v. Sec'y of Health and Human Servs., 733 F.2d 1037, 1041 (2d Cir. 1984).
Upon review, Magistrate Judge Baxter concluded that "the ALJ gave extensive consideration to the Medical Source Statement prepared by Talerico and Saville" but that he assigned it "little weight" primarily due to "inconsistency with the other medical evidence." See Dkt. No. 11 at 13, 15. Further, he found that any factual errors contained in the Administrative Transcript were "minor" and "harmless" because correcting them would "not have changed the outcome of the hearing." Id. at 12. As such, Magistrate Judge Baxter determined that ALJ ...