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Hatounian v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. New York

February 15, 2017

HEATHER HATOUNIAN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          LACHMAN & GORTON PETER A. GORTON, ESQ.Counsel for Plaintiff

          U.S. SOCIAL SECURITY ADMIN. JOSHUA L. KERSHNER, ESQ.OFFICE OF REG'L GEN. COUNSEL- REGION II Counsel for Defendant

          DECISION and ORDER

          GLENN T. SUDDABY CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         Currently before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by Heather Hatounian, against the Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or “the Commissioner”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), are (1) the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge William B. Mitchell Carter, recommending that Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings be denied, and that Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings be granted; (2) Plaintiff's objections to the Report and Recommendation; and (3) Defendant's response to Plaintiff's objections. (Dkt. Nos. 15-17.) For the reasons set forth below, the Report and Recommendation is accepted and adopted in its entirety.

         I. PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS

         Generally, Plaintiff makes six arguments in objection to Magistrate Judge Carter's Report and Recommendation. First, Plaintiff argues that Magistrate Judge Carter improperly correlated Plaintiff's deficits in maintaining attention and concentration with job complexity. (Dkt. No. 16 at 1-5.)[1] Second, Plaintiff argues that Magistrate Judge Carter failed to address Plaintiff's argument that she cannot maintain acceptable levels of work pace and would be unacceptably off-task.

         (Id. at 1, 5-6.) Third, Plaintiff argues that, in weighing Dr. Yanusas's opinion concerning Plaintiff's limitation maintaining attention and concentration, maintaining acceptable levels of work pace, and staying on task, Magistrate Judge Carter improperly considered Plaintiff's alertness, ability to engage in logical and goal-directed thoughts, fair insight and judgment, and ability to follow complex commands. (Id. at 1, 6-7.)

         Fourth, Plaintiff argues that, while Magistrate Judge Carter addressed Plaintiff's ability to handle stress generally, he failed to address Plaintiff's argument that she cannot handle stress on an “occasional” basis. (Id. at 1, 7-10.) Fifth, Plaintiff argues that, while Magistrate Judge Carter generally addressed Plaintiff's argument concerning the weight afforded to Dr. Altmansberger's opinion, he (1) erroneously concluded that assessments of “moderate” impairments permit Plaintiff to perform unskilled work, and (2) failed to consider Plaintiff's arguments concerning application of the regulatory factors. (Id. at 1-2, 10-13.)

         Sixth, and finally, Plaintiff essentially argues that the Court should reject Magistrate Judge Carter's recommendation that the ALJ's step five determination was supported by substantial evidence because it relied on vocational expert testimony based on a hypothetical that did not accurately represent Plaintiff's limitations. (Id. at 2, 12-13.)

         II. DEFENDANT'S RESPONSE TO PLAINTIFF'S OBJECTIONS

         Generally, Defendant makes five arguments in her response to Plaintiff's objections to Magistrate Judge Carter's Report and Recommendation. First, Defendant argues that Plaintiff was not disabled due to a deficit in concentration, persistence or pace. (Dkt. No. 17 at 1-7.) Second, Defendant argues that Plaintiff was able to maintain an acceptable level of work pace. (Id. at 7-8.) Third, Defendant argues that the ALJ properly addressed Plaintiff's limitation dealing with stress. (Id. at 8-11.) Fourth, Defendant argues that the ALJ did not err in considering Dr. Altmansberger's assessment. (Id. at 11-12.) Fifth, and finally, Defendant argues that the ALJ properly relied on vocational expert testimony at step five of the sequential analysis. (Id. at 12-13.)

         III. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARD

         A district court reviewing a magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation “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). Parties may raise objections to the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation, but they must be “specific written objections, ” and must be submitted “[w]ithin 14 days after being served with a copy of the recommended disposition.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2); accord, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). “A judge of the court shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the [Report and Recommendation] . . . to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); accord, Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(2). “Where, however, an objecting party makes only conclusory or general objections, or simply reiterates his original arguments, the Court reviews the Report and Recommendation only for clear error.” Caldwell v. Crosset, 9-CV-0576, 2010 WL 2346330, at * 1 (N.D.N.Y. June 9, 2010) (quoting Farid v. Bouey, 554 F.Supp.2d 301, 307 [N.D.N.Y. 2008]) (internal quotation marks omitted).

         IV. ...


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