United States District Court, W.D. New York
FRANK J. ARCADI, Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL, COMMISSIONER, Defendant.
HUGH B. SCOTT, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
the Court are the parties' respective motions for
judgment on the pleadings (Docket Nos. 11 (plaintiff), 14
(defendant Commissioner)). Having considered the
Administrative Record, filed as Docket No. 6 (references
noted as “[R.___]”), and the papers of both
sides, this Court reaches the following decision.
an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to
review the final determination of the Commissioner of Social
Security that plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is
not entitled to Supplemental Security Income benefits. The
parties consented to proceed before a Magistrate Judge
(Docket No. 16, Order of Oct. 4, 2019).
plaintiff (“Frank Arcadi” or
“plaintiff”) filed an application for disability
insurance benefits on June 15, 2010 [R. 778, 38]. That
application was denied initially. The plaintiff appeared
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), who
considered the case de novo and concluded, in a
written decision dated February 22, 2012, that the plaintiff
was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security
Act [R. 38, 924]. The ALJ's decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner on July 8, 2013, when the
Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review [R.
1, 918]. Plaintiff then sought judicial review, Arcadi v.
Colvin, No. 13CV734. On March 19, 2014, this Court
entered judgment consistent with the stipulation to remand
this matter, Arcadi, supra, Nos. 14
(Stipulation), 17 (Judgment) [R. 911-12].
remand, a second hearing was held on August 20, 2015 [R.
1049]. The second ALJ rendered his decision on November 12,
2015, finding plaintiff was disabled as of March 21, 2014,
but not before [R. 944, 967-68]. Exceptions were submitted to
the Appeals Council, which, on July 12, 2016, affirmed the
second ALJ's decision but remanded to determine
plaintiff's eligibility for disability benefits prior to
March 21, 2014 [R. 977]. (Docket No. 1, Compl. ¶ 14.)
The Appeals Council remanded for the ALJ to determine
work-related functional abilities plaintiff can perform
(before March 2014) despite his limitations [R. 980;
see R. 785]. On September 12, 2017 [R. 855], a third
hearing was held but the third ALJ rendered an unfavorable
decision on November 21, 2017 [R. 778] (id. ¶
15). As noted later by the third ALJ [R. 785], the Appeals
Council did not take issue with the medical findings of the
prior ALJs but focused on the mental assessment [see
R. 796]. The third ALJ thus adopted much of the medical
findings of his predecessors [R. 788-99]. That ALJ found that
plaintiff was not under a disability from June 15, 2010,
through March 20, 2014, concluding that the medical record,
plaintiff's admissions about his activity level and
overall functioning support the finding that he can perform
sedentary level of work [R. 799, 801]. Exceptions again were
submitted to the Appeals Council, which denied review on May
7, 2018 [R. 762], received by plaintiff on May 21, 2018
(id., Ex. A).
commenced this action on July 20, 2018 (id.). The
parties moved for judgment on the pleadings (Docket Nos. 11,
14), and plaintiff duly replied (Docket No. 15). Upon further
consideration, this Court then determined that the motions
could be decided on the papers.
a 46-year-old at the time of the application with a high
school education, last worked as a plumber's helper
(heavy level of exertion) and warehouse worker (medium level)
[R. 799]. The ALJ found that plaintiff could not perform any
past relevant work [R. 799]. He initially contended that he
was disabled as of the onset date of June 1, 2009 [R. 38,
778]. Plaintiff claims the following impairments deemed
severe by the ALJ: major depressive disorder, bipolar
disorder, personality disorder, anxiety, chronic kidney
disease, left tibia plateau fracture status post total knee
replacement, degenerative disc disease of the cervical,
thoracic, and lumbar spine, and osteoarthritis of the right
knee status post meniscectomy [R. 781]. The ALJ found that
plaintiff's impairments did not meet or equal listed
impairments in the Social Security regulations [R. 781-83].
For the mental health impairments, the third ALJ found that
he did not meet the “Paragraph B” criteria for
Listings 12.04, 12.06, or 12.08, finding plaintiff had mild
limitation in understanding, remembering, or apply
information; moderate limitations in interacting with others
and with concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; and
no more than mild limitation in adapting or managing oneself
[R. 782-83]. The ALJ also found that plaintiff did not meet
“Paragraph C” criteria [R. 783].
AND VOCATIONAL EVIDENCE
suffered a right ankle fracture in the 1980s, requiring
surgery and causing him difficulty ever since [R. 264]
(Docket No. 11, Pl. Memo. at 6). He had a right knee injury
in 1991 and had surgery to repair a tibial plateau fracture
[R. 28, 755] (id.). Plaintiff sought counseling in
May to December 2008 for bipolar disorder and depression [R.
301-34] (id.). On July 13, 2011, plaintiff was
rear-ended while driving, suffering right knee and ankle
injuries [R. 639, 660] (id. at 9). Plaintiff sought
medical treatment for these injuries.
Baskin examined plaintiff on August 19, 2010, opining that
plaintiff had minimal to no limitation in his ability to
follow and understand simple directions, perform simple tasks
independently, maintain attention and concentration, maintain
a regular schedule, learn new tasks, and perform complex
tasks with supervision [R. 438, 441, 786].
issue here are medical opinions from several treating
physicians and how the third ALJ considered them. On
September 27, 2010, Dr. Luis Melgar completed an employment
assessment finding that plaintiff had functional limitations
(very limited in lifting, carrying, pushing, pulling, and
bending, and moderate limitations in walking, standing,
sitting, climbing stairs) [R. 506-07, 789] (Docket No. 11,
Pl. Memo. at 22). The third ALJ gave some weight to this
opinion, affording some weight to the mental health portion
of the opinion, but giving greater weight to the more limited
opinion of consultative examiner Dr. Renee Baskin, Ph.D. [R.
438, 786, 798]. That ALJ found that Dr. Melgar's was
“somewhat vaguely articulated” but stated limits
generally consistent with a sedentary residual capacity [R.
Baskin examined plaintiff on August 19, 2010, and concluded
that plaintiff had “minimal to no limitations in his
ability to follow and understand simple directions and
instructions, perform simple tasks independently, maintain
attention and concentration, maintain a regular schedule,
learn new tasks, perform complex tasks with supervision. He
would have moderate limitations being able to make
appropriate decisions, relate adequately with others and
appropriately deal with stress” [R. 441, see
R. 786]. Dr. Baskin also found that “the results of the
present evaluation appear to be consistent with psychiatric
problems and this may interfere with the claimant's
ability to function on a daily basis. The claimant also
appears to be compromised by lack of involvement in any type
of consistent counseling” [R. 441, see R.
786]. The third ALJ considered Dr. Baskin's opinion and
gave it great weight deeming it consistent with the overall
record [R. 797].
January 2012, plaintiff was treated by Dr. Cheryle Hart and
the doctor made an employment assessment [R. 643, 791] and
found that plaintiff was permanently disabled due to knee
pain, bipolar disorder, and anxiety [R. 643] (see
Docket No. 11, Pl. Memo. at 12-13, 21). She found that
plaintiff was moderately limited in maintaining socially
appropriate behavior without exhibiting behavior extremes but
the doctor was unable to assess plaintiff's ability to
function in a work setting at a consistent pace [R. 644,
791]. The ALJ then gave this opinion some weight because