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Maciejewski v. Berryhill

United States District Court, W.D. New York

April 27, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security[1], Defendant.


          MICHAEL A. TELESCA United States District Judge.


         Plaintiff Sandra Maciejewski (“plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), claiming that Defendant Nancy A. Berryhill, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner” or “defendant”), improperly denied her applications for social security disability insurance (“SSDI”) and supplemental security income (“SSI”). Currently before the Court are the parties' competing motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         On December 21, 2016, Magistrate Judge Leslie G. Foschio issued a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) (Docket No. 13) recommending that plaintiff's motion be denied and that defendant's motion be granted.

         For the reasons set forth below, the Court adopts the R&R in part and rejects the R&R in part. Specifically, the Court adopts the portion of the R&R finding that defendant violated the treating physician rule and rejects the portion of the R&R holding that plaintiff has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work and is thus not disabled. The Court agrees with and grants plaintiff's motion remanding this matter to the Commissioner for further administrative proceedings. Accordingly, the Commissioner's motion is denied.


         Plaintiff filed her applications for SSDI and SSI on March 14, 2011 and April 4, 2011, respectively. Administrative Transcript (“T.”) 55, 118-128. Plaintiff alleged that she became disabled on March 1, 2010, as a result of diabetes, high blood pressure, anemia, asthma, arthritis, weakness in her hands, leg swelling, obesity, and depression. T. 165 Plaintiff's applications were initially denied. T. 55, 68-75. At plaintiff's request, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) William E. Straub conducted a hearing on June 21, 2012. T. 31-54. On November 20, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision denying plaintiff's claim for benefits. T. 12-26.

         In applying the required five-step sequential analysis, as contained in the administrative regulations promulgated by the Social Security Administration ("SSA") (see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; Lynch v. Astrue, 2008 WL 3413899, at *2 (W.D.N.Y. 2008) (detailing the five steps)), the ALJ made the following findings, among others: (1) plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through March 30, 2015; (2) plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since March 1, 2010; (3) plaintiff's diabetes mellitus, hypertension, asthma, and obesity were severe impairments; (4) plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; (5) plaintiff had the RFC to perform the full range of medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.157(c); and (6) plaintiff was able to perform her past relevant work as a supervisor. T. 17-26.

         On June 4, 2014, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's determination the Commissioner's final decision. T. 1-4. Plaintiff then commenced this action.


         I. Legal Standard

         42 U.S.C. § 405(g) grants jurisdiction to district courts to hear claims based on the denial of Social Security benefits. Section 405(g) provides that the District Court “shall have the power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2007). When considering such a claim, the Court must accept the findings of fact made by the Commissioner, provided that such findings are supported by “substantial evidence” in the record. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “Substantial evidence means more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Moran v. Astrue, 569 F.3d 108, 112 (2d Cir. 2009) (quotation omitted).

         When determining whether the Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial evidence, the Court's task is “‘to examine the entire record, including contradictory evidence and evidence from which conflicting inferences can be drawn.'” Brown v. Apfel, 174 F.3d 59, 62 (2d Cir. 1999) (quoting Mongeur v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 1033, 1038 (2d Cir. 1983)). Section 405(g) limits the scope of the Court's review to two inquiries: whether the Commissioner's findings were supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole and whether the Commissioner's conclusions were based upon the correct legal standard. See Green-Younger v. Barnhart, 335 F.3d 99, 105-106 (2d Cir. 2003).

         With respect to the Court's review of the R&R, when specific objections are made to a magistrate judge's report and recommendation, the district judge 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)(C). When no objections or only general objections are made, the district judge reviews the report and recommendation for clear error or manifest injustice. E.g., DiPilato v. 7-Eleven, Inc., 662 F.Supp.2d 333, 339 (S.D.N.Y. 2009). After conducting the appropriate review, the ...

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