United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
MICHAEL A. TELESCA United States District Judge
by counsel, Theresa Baker (“plaintiff”) brings
this action pursuant to Title II 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 disability
insurance benfits (“DIB”). 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 January 2012, plaintiff (d/o/b
February 6, 1980) applied for DIB, alleging disability as of
April 18, 2010. After her application was denied, plaintiff
requested a hearing, which was held before administrative law
judge Timothy McGuan (“the ALJ”) on January 15,
2014. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on August 6,
2014. The Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's
decision and this timely action followed.
The ALJ's Decision
the ALJ found that plaintiff met the insured status
requirements of the Act through December 31, 2015. At step
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 April 18,
2010, the alleged onset date. At step two, the ALJ found that
plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments:
myofascial pain syndrom; C5-C6 disc herniation with nerve
entrapment; fibromyalgia; and chronis thyroiditis. At step
three, the ALJ found that plaintiff did not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled a listed impairment.
proceeding to step four, the ALJ determined that, considering
all of plaintiff's impairments, plaintiff retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b),
“with the following limitations: she can stand and walk
up to four hours in an eight-hour workday.” T. 31. At
step four, the ALJ found that plaintiff was able to perform
past relevant work as a debt collector. Accordingly, the ALJ
found plaintiff disabled at step four and did not proceed to
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).
Treating Physician Rule
contends that the ALJ violated the treating physician rule in
assessing the opinion of Dr. Carlos Martinez, one of
plaintiff's treating physicians. The treating physician
rule provides that an ALJ must give controlling weight to a
treating physician's opinion if that opinion is
well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and
diagnostic techniques and not inconsistent with other
substantial evidence in the record. See Halloran v.
Barnhart, 362 F.3d 28, 32 (2d Cir. 2004); 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.927(c)(2). An ALJ must give “good
reasons” for discounting the opinion of a treating
physician. See Coluciello-Pitkouvich v. Astrue, 2014
WL 4954664, *6 (E.D.N.Y. Sept. 30, 2014) (“[T]he ALJ
must expressly state the weight assigned and provide
‘good reasons' for why the particular weight was
assigned to each treating source's opinion.”)
(citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2)).
contends that the ALJ violated the treating physician rule by
incorrectly stating that Dr. Carlos Martinez, plaintiff's
treating physician, “never indicated that [plaintiff]
was totally disabled.” Doc. 10-1 (quoting T. 40).
Plaintiff argues that “Dr. Martinez specifically opined
that [plaintiff] was ‘currently still unable to
work' on February 11, 2013.” Id. (citing
T. 689). According to plaintiff, the ALJ failed to give
“good reasons” for rejecting this February 11,
Martinez's statement, contained within the context of a
single treatment note, does not indicate that plaintiff was
totally disabled - meaning disabled for a period of
not less than 12 months, see 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A) -
but merely that plaintiff was “currently” not
able to work. Thus, the ALJ correctly noted that Dr. Martinez
never opined that plaintiff was totally disabled, contrary to
plaintiff's argument. The Court thus finds that ...