United States District Court, W.D. New York
DECISION AND ORDER
MICHAEL A. TELESCA United States District Judge.
by counsel, Paul Kevin Mikulec (“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 his applications for
disability insurance benefits (“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 granted.
record reveals that in August 2011, plaintiff (d/o/b
September 29, 1977) filed an application for DIB, alleging
disability beginning March 4, 2011. After his application was
denied, plaintiff requested a hearing, which was held before
administrative law judge Donald McDougall (“the
ALJ”) on April 8, 2013. The ALJ issued an unfavorable
decision on June 20, 2013. The Appeals Council denied review
of that decision and this timely action followed.
The ALJ's Decision
the ALJ found that plaintiff satisfied the insured status
requirements of the Act through December 31, 2016. At step
one of the five-step sequential evaluation, see 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since March 4, 2011, the
alleged onset date. At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff
suffered from the severe impairments of morbid obesity,
asthma, and lumbar spine disorder. At step three, the ALJ
found that plaintiff did not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that met or medically equaled a
proceeding to step four, the ALJ found that 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: [he] must
be able to change positions every half-hour; [he] cannot be
exposed to extremes of pulmonary irritants; [he] can only
occasionally climb, balance, kneel, stoop, crouch or crawl;
and, [he] can never climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds.” T. 13-14. At step four, the ALJ found that
plaintiff was incapable of performing past relevant work. At
step five, the ALJ found that considering plaintiff's
age, education, work experience, and RFC, there were jobs
existing in significant numbers in the national economy that
he could perform. Accordingly, the ALJ found that plaintiff
was not disabled.
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).
Development of the Record
contends that the ALJ failed to fully develop the medical
record. Specifically, plaintiff argues that because his
primary care physician, Dr. Sukhwinder Kodial, was referenced
in several treatment notes from other medical sources, the
record was necessarily incomplete because it did not contain
any treatment notes from Dr. Kodial. The record reveals, as
plaintiff contends, that Dr. Kodial was carbon-copied on a
handful of notes in the medical record. Plaintiff testified,
and the record reflects, that he treated primarily with Dr.
George Haddad through approximately July 2012, when he
switched to Dr. Kodial for primary care. Plaintiff testified
that he saw both primary physicians primarily for pain
medication, and that he changed care to Dr. Kodial because
Dr. Haddad required him to come in monthly in order to renew
a pain medicine prescription, whereas Dr. Kodial did not
require visits of such frequency.
Commissioner argues that the ALJ possessed a complete medical
history of plaintiff, and the Court agrees. The information
in the medical record provides a longitudinal picture of
plaintiff's conditions and medical care. The medical
record includes full treatment notes from neurosurgeon Dr.
Elad Levy and his nurse practitioner (“NP”) Laura
Mason, treatment notes as well as a medical opinion from
primary care physician Dr. Haddad, and a consulting examining
opinion from state agency physician Dr. Donna Miller. The
only references to Dr. Kodial that appear in the record are
treatment notes either addressed to, or carbon-copied to, his
office. There is no indication in the record that these
treatment notes would shed any additional light on
plaintiff's conditions than already revealed by the
complete medical record, which significantly included
treatment notes from plaintiff's primary care physician,
Dr. Haddad, for the bulk of the relevant time period.
the Court finds that this record was complete with “no
obvious gaps, ” and therefore the ALJ was “under
no obligation to seek additional information in advance of
rejecting [plaintiff's] benefits claim.” Rosa
v. Callahan, 168 F.3d 72, 79 n.5 (2d Cir. 1999)
(internal quotation marks omitted). “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). Under
these circumstances, the ALJ did not err in failing to obtain
treatment records from Dr. Kodial. See Lozama v.
Colvin, 2016 WL 1259411, *4 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 30, 2016)
(finding that ALJ did not err in failing to ...