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Giles v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. New York

June 12, 2017

OSBORNE GILES, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          DECISION AND ORDER

          HON. MICHAEL A. TELESCA United States District Judge.

         I. Introduction

         Represented by counsel, Osborne Giles (“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 his 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 granted.

         II. Procedural History

         The record reveals that in May 2012, plaintiff filed an application for SSI, alleging a July 1, 2009 amended onset date of disability. After his application was denied, plaintiff requested a hearing, which was held before administrative law judge Robert Harvey (“the ALJ”) on October 11, 2012. The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on November 1, 2012. The Appeals Council denied review of that decision and this timely action followed.

         III. The ALJ's Decision

         At step one of the five-step sequential evaluation, see 20 C.F.R. § 416.920, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 21, 2012, the application date. At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff had the severe impairments of status post gunshot wound to the left side of the chest and right thigh; asthma; and adjustment disorder with anxiety and depression. 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.

         Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ found that plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform the broad world of work as defined in SSR 83-10, but with the following nonexertional limitations: he could not work in areas where he would be exposed to pulmonary irritants, cold, or dampness; he had occasional limitations in the ability to kneel; he had occasional limitations in the ability to understand, remember, and carry out detailed instructions; and he had occasional limitations in the ability to interact appropriately with the general public. At step four, the ALJ found that plaintiff could perform past relevant work as a service clerk or child monitor. Accordingly, the ALJ found plaintiff not disabled at step four and did not proceed to step five.

         IV. Discussion

         A 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).

         A. Failure to Develop the Record

         Plaintiff contends that the ALJ failed to fully develop the record. Specifically, plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to “clarify” the opinion of plaintiff's treating physician, Dr. Satish Arora, and failed to obtain more detailed treatment notes from the doctor, prior to giving little weight to the opinion. For the reasons discussed below, the Court finds that the administrative record was complete and that the ALJ did not fail to develop the record.

         The regulations provide that although a claimant is generally responsible for providing evidence upon which to base an RFC assessment, before the Administration makes a disability determination, the ALJ is “responsible for developing [the claimant's] complete medical history, including arranging for a consultative examination(s) if necessary, and making every reasonable effort to help [the claimant] get medical reports from [the claimant's] own medical sources.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545, 416.945 (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1512(d) through (f); § 416.912(d) through (e)). “Even though the ALJ has an affirmative obligation to develop the record, it is the plaintiff's burden to furnish such medical and other evidence of disability as the Secretary may require.” Long v. Bowen, 1989 WL 83379, *4 (E.D.N.Y. July 17, 1989) (internal citations omitted).

         Dr. Arora provided an August 20, 2012 opinion in which he opined that due to conditions of leg and chest pain, as well as asthma, plaintiff was “very limited” in lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, bending, and stairs or other climbing; and was “moderately limited” in walking and standing. The record reveals that Dr. Arora treated plaintiff four times between May 7, 2012 and August 20, 2012, when he issued his opinion. Dr. Arora's opinion confirmed what the records showed as far as treatment, i.e., that plaintiff complained of limb pain, for which Dr. Arora prescribed Naprosyn and advised physical therapy. Dr. Arora's opinion, which notes that he diagnosed plaintiff's ...


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