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Colvin v. Colvin

United States District Court, N.D. New York

March 28, 2017

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

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

          SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION VERNON NORWOOD, 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 action filed by Sean Colvin (“Plaintiff”) against the Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or “Commissioner”) pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking Social Security benefits, are the following: (1) the Report-Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge William B. Mitchell Carter recommending that the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings be granted, that Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings be denied, that the Commissioner's decision be affirmed, and that Plaintiff's Complaint be dismissed; and (2) Plaintiff's Objection to the Report-Recommendation. (Dkt. Nos. 16, 17.) For the reasons stated below, the Report-Recommendation is adopted, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted, Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings is denied, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed, and Plaintiff's Complaint is dismissed.

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         A. Factual Background and Procedural History

         Because this Decision and Order is intended primarily for the review of the parties, and they have not objected to Parts I.A. and I.B. of the Report-Recommendation, which correctly recite the factual background and procedural history of this action, the Court will not repeat that information in this Decision and Order, but will respectfully refer the reader to Parts I.A. and I.B. of the Report-Recommendation. (Dkt. No. 20, at Parts I.A. and I.B.)

         B. Parties' Arguments on Their Motions for Judgment on the Pleadings

         1. Plaintiff's Brief and Supplemental Brief

         Generally, in his brief and supplemental brief in support of his motion, Plaintiff asserts the following five arguments: (1) the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) failed to properly assess Plaintiff's limitations on his work pace and his ability to engage in continuing and systematic employment; (2) the ALJ incorrectly determined that Plaintiff could meet the physical demands of light work; (3) the ALJ failed to properly assess Plaintiff's learning disorder as severe or to consider the true limiting effects of that impairment in making his Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) determination; (4) the ALJ's determination regarding whether there are significant numbers of jobs in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform given his RFC, age, education, and work experience is not supported by substantial evidence; and (5) at Step Five of the governing evaluation process, the ALJ erred because the vocational expert's testimony on cross-examination confirms that Plaintiff cannot do either his past relevant work or other work. (Dkt. No. 10, at Points I-IV; Dkt. No. 12, at Point 1.)

         2. Defendant's Brief

         Generally, in her brief in support of her motion, Defendant argues that the Commissioner's decision (that Plaintiff is not disabled) is supported by substantial evidence for the following three reasons: (1) at Step Two of the governing evaluation process, the ALJ correctly determined that Plaintiff's learning disorder is not a severe impairment, because (a) Plaintiff failed to demonstrate that his learning disorder significantly limited his ability to perform basic work activities, and (b) in any event, the ALJ considered Plaintiff's non-severe impairments, including his learning disorder, in combination with his severe impairments throughout the remainder of the sequential evaluation; (2) the ALJ properly determined that Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform a range of unskilled, light work, because (a) the RFC determination was supported by substantial evidence, (b) the ALJ correctly determined that Plaintiff's Crohn's disease/irritable bowel syndrome did not result in any work-related limitations, and (c) under the circumstances, the ALJ did not need to afford significant weight to the opinions of consultative physician Dr. Justine Magurno, family physician Dr. Timothy Roche, or Family Nurse Practitioner Cori Pane; and (3) at Step Five of the governing five-step evaluation process, the ALJ properly determined that Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform work which exists in significant numbers in the national economy, because (a) he correctly determined Plaintiff's RFC, (b) he correctly applied the applicable grids rules, (c) he correctly obtained and relied upon the testimony of an impartial vocational expert including a response to a hypothetical question posed by the ALJ which accurately reflected Plaintiff's RFC, and (d) he correctly rejected the vocational expert's answer to the hypothetical question posed by Plaintiff's counsel on cross-examination which confusingly failed to clarify whether it was asking about Plaintiff's left hand only (as the ALJ's hypothetical question had done) or about Plaintiff's left hand, right hand or both hands. (Dkt. No. 13, at “Argument.”)[1]

         3. Plaintiff's Reply Brief

         Generally, in his reply brief, Plaintiff argues that, contrary to Defendant's argument, Plaintiff's hypothetical question did not confusingly alter the ALJ's hypothetical question (which was about Plaintiff's left non-dominant ...


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