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Sampel v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. New York

June 23, 2017



          HON. MICHAEL A. TELESCA, United States District Judge

         I. Introduction

         Represented by counsel, plaintiff Ricardo Sampel (“plaintiff”) brings this action pursuant to the Social Security Act (the “Act”), seeking review of the final decision of defendant the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (the “Commissioner” or “defendant”) 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, plaintiff's motion is granted to the extent that this case is remanded to the Commissioner for further administrative proceedings consistent with this Decision and Order, and the Commissioner's motion is denied.

         II. Procedural History

         Plaintiff protectively filed an application for SSI on April 7, 2011, which was denied. Administrative Transcript (“T.”) 112, 161-68. At plaintiff's request, a hearing was held before administrative law judge (“ALJ”) Connor O'Brien on October 22, 2012. T. 30-112. In a decision dated April 3, 2013, ALJ O'Brien found that plaintiff was not disabled as defined in the Act and denied his claim. T. 10-29. On August 19, 2013, the Appeals Council issued an order denying plaintiff's request for review, thereby rendering ALJ O'Brien's decision the Commissioner's final determination. T. 1-5. Plaintiff subsequently filed this action.

         III. The ALJ's Decision

         At step one of the five-step sequential evaluation, see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920, the ALJ determined that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 7, 2011, the alleged onset date. T. 15. At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of chronic pain syndrome of the left shoulder; adjustment disorder with depression and anxiety; and learning disability, NOS. Id. At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of any listed impairment. T. 16.

         Before proceeding to step four, the ALJ determined that, considering all of plaintiff's impairments, plaintiff retained the RFC to perform a range of light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b). T. 17. Specifically, the ALJ found that plaintiff was capable of lifting 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally with his right arm; lifting no more than 10 pounds with the left arm; occasionally pushing and pulling with the upper extremities within the designated lifting limitations; occasionally reaching overhead bilaterally; occasionally reaching in all directions with the left upper extremity; occasionally handling with the left upper extremity. Id. The ALJ also found that plaintiff was capable of performing unskilled work with only occasional changes in the work setting and occasional interaction with the public. Id.

         At step four, the ALJ found that plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work. T. 21. At step five, the ALJ concluded that, considering plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff can perform. T. 22. Accordingly, the ALJ found plaintiff not disabled.

         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. Violation of treating physician rule

         Plaintiff first argues that the ALJ improperly rejected portions of the uncontradicted medical opinions of treating orthopedic surgeon Dr. Terrance M. Daino. The Court agrees.

         Dr. Daino first began treating plaintiff in 2004, performing a left shoulder arthroscopy with arthroscopically assisted labral repair and arthroscopically assisted subacromial decompression on plaintiff. T. 301-310. Plaintiff had previously undergone shoulder surgery in 2000. T. 304. Dr. Daino continued to treat plaintiff for his shoulder condition throughout the relevant time period, including performing an additional surgery in 2006. T. 295. On January 28, 2011, Dr. Daino completed a Progress Record for plaintiff in which he opined that plaintiff should not lift more than 10 to 15 pounds, should not lift or reach above shoulder level, and should avoid repetitive activities. T. 342. On October 19, 2012, Dr. Daino completed a “medical source statement regarding shoulders for Social Security disability claim” regarding plaintiff's limitations. T. 485-86. Dr. Daino opined that plaintiff suffered from impingement syndrome and pain in his left shoulder, could work for 8 hours per day, was capable of sitting for 8 hours per day, could lift no more than 5 pounds either occasionally or frequently, could occasionally use his left arm below shoulder lever, could occasionally raise his left arm over shoulder lever, suffered from moderate pain that would occasionally interfere with the attention and concentration needed to perform even simple work ...

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