United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
MICHAEL A. TELESCA United States District Judge
by counsel, Amber Blaszak (“plaintiff”) brings
this action pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act
(“the Act”), seeking review of the final decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security (“the
Commissioner”) denying her application for supplemental
security income (“SSI”). The Court has
jurisdiction over this matter pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). Presently before the Court are the parties'
cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule
12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. For the
reasons discussed below, the Commissioner's motion is
record reveals that in November 2012, plaintiff (d/o/b
January 23, 1983) applied for SSI, alleging disability as of
December 26, 2011. After her application was denied,
plaintiff requested a hearing, which was held before
administrative law judge Timothy J. Trost (“the
ALJ”) on October 16, 2014. The ALJ issued an
unfavorable decision on December 18, 2014. The Appeals
Council denied review of the ALJ's decision and this
timely action followed.
The ALJ's Decision
one of the five-step sequential evaluation process, see 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520, the ALJ determined that plaintiff had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November
28, 2012, the application date. At step two, the ALJ found
that plaintiff suffered from the severe impairment of
“unspecified myalgias.” T. 16. At step three, the
ALJ found that plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled a
proceeding to step four, the ALJ determined that, considering
all of plaintiff's impairments, plaintiff retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
the full range of sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.967(a). At step four, the ALJ found that plaintiff
had no past relevant work. At step five, the ALJ determined
that considering plaintiff's age, education, work
experience, and RFC, jobs existed in significant numbers in
the national economy which plaintiff could perform.
Accordingly, the ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled.
district court may set aside the Commissioner's
determination that a claimant is not disabled only if the
factual findings are not supported by “substantial
evidence” or if the decision is based on legal error.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also Green-Younger v.
Barnhart, 335 F.3d 99, 105-06 (2d Cir. 2003).
“Substantial evidence means ‘such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.'” Shaw v. Chater,
221 F.3d 126, 131 (2d Cir. 2000).
contends that the ALJ failed to give good reasons for
rejecting the opinion of her treating physician, Dr. Matthew
Fernaays. Dr. Fernaays was plaintiff's primary care
physician at Pembroke Family Medicine. Throughout the
relevant time period, plaintiff treated with Dr. Fernaays for
complaints of widespread pain, intermittent chest pain, and
anxiety. Dr. Fernaays prescribed various antidepressant
medications for plaintiff's anxiety, including Paxil,
Cymbalta, and Effexor. When performed, mental status
examinations (“MSE”) in Dr. Fernaays'
treatment notes indicate essentially normal findings, with
the exception of anxious moods. Plaintiff also received
counseling for anxiety at Spectrum Human Services
(“Spectrum”), although treatment notes from
Spectrum do not note findings of mental status examinations.
February 18, 2013, Dr. Fernaays completed a functional
assessment at the request of the New York State Office of
Temporary and Disability Assistance. Dr. Fernaays noted that
plaintiff did not suffer from a thought disorder and that she
had “reasonable insight” and her thought
processes were intact. According to Dr. Fernaays,
plaintiff's attitude, appearance, and behavior were
appropriate; speech, thought, and perception were intact; and
her affect was “slightly flat” and her mood
“good, ” but she suffered “significant
anxiety.” T. 245. Sensorium, intellectual functioning,
insight, and judgment were intact, and plaintiff could manage
her own finances. Nevertheless, Dr. Fernaays opined that
plaintiff had a “poor ability to function in a work
setting.” T. 241, 246. Dr. Fernaays did not describe
what limitations, if any, resulted from this
gave no weight to Dr. Fernaays' opinion regarding
plaintiff's mental condition,  finding that the opinion was
“far too vague” and noting that Dr. Fernaays was
“not a psychiatrist.” T. 23. Plaintiff contends
that these reasons were insufficient to reject Dr.
Fernaays' treating source opinion. The Court disagrees.
Although the ALJ is required to consider several factors when
weighing a treating source opinion, “slavish recitation
of each and every factor [is not required] where the
ALJ's reasoning and adherence to the regulation are
clear.” Atwater v. Astrue, 512 F. App'x
67, 70 (2d Cir. 2013). Here, it is clear from the ALJ's
decision that he considered Dr. Fernaays' opinion and
applied the relevant regulation, 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(c).
ALJ's reasoning that Dr. Fernaays' opinion was
“far too vague” was sound because the opinion did
not specify any particular limitations stemming from
plaintiff's reported “poor ability to function in a
work setting.” Plaintiff argues that the ALJ should
have recontacted Dr. Fernaays to clarify his opinion;
however, the Court finds that given this record the ALJ did
not err in failing to do so. The questions on the form filled
out by Dr. Fernaays requested specific descriptions of
functional limitations, yet Dr. Fernaays elected not to
provide such specific information. Dr. Fernaays'
statement that plaintiff had a “poor ability to
function in a work setting” was in response to a
question requesting that Dr. Fernaays “describe in
full any difficulties at work or in a work-like setting
. . . especially regarding relationships with supervisors
& peers, performance of job duties or episodes of
decompensation.” T. 246 (emphasis ...