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Camarata v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. New York

June 20, 2017

CYNTHIA ANN CAMARATA, o/b/o C.R.C., Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          DAVID A. EGHIGIAN, ESQ., for Plaintiff.

          ARIELLA R. ZOLTAN, SPECIAL ASS'T. U.S. ATTORNEY, for Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          Hon. Andrew T. Baxter U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         This matter was referred to me, for all proceedings and entry of a final judgment, pursuant to the Social Security Pilot Program, N.D.N.Y. General Order No. 18, in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, N.D.N.Y. Local Rule 73.1 and the consent of the parties. (Dkt. Nos. 4, 7).

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff Cynthia Ann Camarata filed an application for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) payments on behalf of her daughter, C.R.C.[1], on October 4, 2013. (Administrative Transcript (“T.”) at 222, 366-72). Plaintiff's application was initially denied on December 6, 2013, and she made a timely request for a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (T. 240-48, 293-300). The hearing, at which C.R.C. appeared with plaintiff and legal counsel, was conducted by ALJ Julia D. Gibbs on October 7, 2014. (T. 67-92).

         On October 17, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding that C.R.C. was not disabled from the date of the application through the date of her decision. (T. 219-37). The ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision when the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review on May 24, 2016. (T. 1-7).

         II. ISSUES IN CONTENTION

         Plaintiff makes the following arguments:

(1) The Appeals Council failed to adequately consider new evidence related to C.R.C.'s mental impairments. (Pl.'s Br. at 5-7) (Dkt. No. 14).
(2) The ALJ's credibility finding regarding C.R.C.'s testimony was not supported by substantial evidence. (Pl.'s Br. at 7-8).

         Defendant argues that the complaint should be dismissed, because the Appeals Council adequately considered the new evidence, and the Commissioner's decision was supported by substantial evidence. (Def.'s Br. at 4-14) (Dkt. No. 15). For the reasons stated below, this court agrees with the defendant and will dismiss the complaint. To the extent that plaintiff's new evidence documents a worsening of C.R.C.'s impairments since the ALJ's October 17, 2014 decision, the proper remedy is for plaintiff to submit a new application for benefits on C.R.C.'s behalf.

         III. FACTUAL OVERVIEW

         The court will only briefly summarize the medical, educational, and other evidence, which is set forth at length in plaintiff's brief (Pl.'s Br. at 2-6) and in the ALJ's decision. (T. 226-32). Further relevant details are discussed below in the course of analyzing the issues disputed by the parties.

         Claimant C.R.C. is a female child, born in December 2001, who resided with her mother at all times relevant to this proceeding. (T. 225, 363). In September 2013, C.R.C. was involved in a rollover accident while riding an All Terrain Vehicle (“ATV”), and suffered the traumatic amputation of her left hand. (T. 267, 461). Efforts to reattach her hand were unsuccessful, but she was fitted with a prosthesis. (T. 469). After missing significant time due to her injury and rehabilitation, C.R.C. returned to school. (T. 286). On the date of the hearing, she was in the seventh grade. (T. 26).

         At the hearing, C.R.C. testified that she was right handed, but had difficulties with many tasks due to the loss of her left hand, despite the prosthesis. (T. 268-83). These activities of daily living included dressing herself, styling her hair, tying her shoes, cutting food, opening jars, turning pages in a book or examination packet, and carrying books at school. (T. 267-77). C.R.C.'s mother testified that these difficulties continued even after her daughter was fitted with a more advanced “i-limb” prosthesis, [2]because C.R.C. was often unable to access the wireless internet signal necessary to manipulate this new prosthetic hand. (T. 291). C.R.C. had also been seeing a counselor for the past year to help with the anger and depression stemming from her injury. (T. 283, 502-503).

         In April 2015, approximately six months after the ALJ's decision, C.R.C. was hospitalized for an emergency psychiatric evaluation after she told her mother that she had suicidal thoughts. (T. 169). C.R.C. was hospitalized again in October 2015 after posting statements on social media about committing suicide. (T. 65). She reported that she had previously tried to choke or hang herself, and had engaged in self-cutting. (T. 59, 65). C.R.C. received in-patient psychiatric treatment, and continued to take prescribed psychiatric medication upon discharge. (T. 10-13). At the time of this treatment, plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision was still pending before the Appeals Council. (T. 2).

         IV. ...


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