Cudworth v. Colvin
MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER - That Magistrate Judge Earl S. Hines' 14 Report and Recommendation is ADOPTED in its entirety. That the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED and Cudworth's complaint (Dkt. No. 1) is DISMISSED. Signed by Chief Judge Gary L. Sharpe on 9/29/2014. (jel, )
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting
Commissioner of Social Security,
FOR THE PLAINTIFF:
Office of Mark A. Schneider
57 Court Street
Plattsburgh, NY 12901
FOR THE DEFENDANT:
HON. RICHARD S. HARTUNIAN
United States Attorney
Syracuse, NY 13261
MARK A. SCHNEIDER, ESQ.
ELIZABETH D. ROTHSTEIN
Special Assistant U.S. Attorney
Steven P. Conte
Regional Chief Counsel
Social Security Administration
Office of General Counsel, Region II
26 Federal Plaza, Room 3904
New York, NY 10278
Gary L. Sharpe
MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER
Plaintiff Melissa Cudworth o/b/o K.D. challenges defendant
Commissioner of Social Security’s denial of Supplemental Security Income
(SSI), seeking review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). 1 (Compl.,
Dkt. No. 1.) In a Report and Recommendation (R&R) filed June 20, 2014,
Magistrate Judge Earl S. Hines recommended that the Commissioner’s
decision be affirmed. (Dkt. No. 14.) Pending are Cudworth’s objections to
the R&R. (Dkt. No. 15.) For the reasons that follow, the court adopts the
R&R in its entirety.
On January 18, 2011, Cudworth filed an application for SSI under the
Social Security Act (“the Act”) on behalf of her minor daughter. (Tr. 3 at 57,
105-10.) After her application was denied, Cudworth requested a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on March 1,
2012. (Id. at 31-56, 58-63, 67-69.) On March 23, 2012, the ALJ issued a
42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3) renders section 405(g) of Title 42 applicable to judicial review of
The court incorporates the factual recitations of the parties and Judge Hines. ( See
generally Dkt. Nos. 11, 12, 14.)
Page references preceded by “Tr.” are to the Administrative Transcript. (Dkt. No. 8.)
decision denying the requested benefits, which became the
Commissioner’s final determination upon the Social Security Administration
Appeals Council’s denial of review. (Id. at 1-4, 7-30.)
Cudworth commenced the present action by filing a complaint on
April 1, 2013, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner’s determination.
(Compl.) After receiving the parties’ briefs, Judge Hines issued an R&R
recommending the Commissioner’s decision be affirmed. (See generally
Dkt. No. 14.)
III. Standard of Review
By statute and rule, district courts are authorized to refer social
security appeals to magistrate judges for proposed findings and
recommendations as to disposition. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A), (B);
N.D.N.Y. L.R. 40.1, 72.3(d); General Order No. 18. Before entering final
judgment, this court reviews report and recommendation orders in cases it
has referred to a magistrate judge. If a party properly objects to a specific
element of the magistrate judge’s findings and recommendations, this court
reviews those findings and recommendations de novo. See Almonte v.
N.Y. State Div. of Parole, No. Civ. 904CV484GLS, 2006 WL 149049, at *3,
*5 (N.D.N.Y. Jan. 18, 2006). In cases where no party has filed an
objection, only vague or general objections are made, or a party resubmits
the same papers and arguments already considered by the magistrate
judge, this court reviews the findings and recommendations of the
magistrate judge for clear error. See id. at *4-5.
Cudworth purports to object to the R&R on five grounds. Specifically,
she asserts that Judge Hines: (1) “incorrectly defined and applied the
substantial evidence test”; (2) failed to give sufficient weight to the treating
sources; (3) improperly applied the law regarding credibility determinations;
(4) erred in determining that K.D.’s severe impairments do not functionally
equal a listing under 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a; and (5) failed to liberally apply
the Act. (Dkt. No. 15, Attach. 1 at 2-5.) The substance of the first four
arguments, however, was previously raised in Cudworth’s brief and
considered and rejected by Judge Hines. (Dkt. No. 11 at 15-38; Dkt. No.
14 at 5-24.) These “objections,” therefore, are general and do not warrant
de novo review. See Almonte, 2006 WL 149049 at *4.
Cudworth’s final argument is wholly conclusory. (Dkt. No. 15, Attach.
1 at 3-4.) According to Cudworth, because the Act is to be liberally applied,
and because it is uncontroverted that K.D. was hospitalized for herpes
encephalopathy and suffers continued limitations from such impairment,
Judge Hines should have, at least, remanded the case for further
development of the record. (Id.) Contrary to Cudworth’s argument,
“whether there is substantial evidence supporting the [claimant]’s view is
not the question,” instead, the court must “decide whether substantial
evidence supports the ALJ’s decision.” Bonet ex rel. T.B. v. Colvin, 523 F.
App’x 58, 59 (2d. Cir. 2013). “Substantial evidence is defined as more than
a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind
might accept to support a conclusion.” Alston v. Sullivan, 904 F.2d 122,
126 (2d Cir. 1990) (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Stated
another way, “[i]f evidence is susceptible to more than one rational
interpretation, the Commissioner’s conclusion must be upheld.” McIntyre v.
Colvin, 758 F.3d 146, 149 (2d Cir. 2014); see Rutherford v. Schweiker, 685
F.2d 60, 62 (2d Cir. 1982).
In this case, the ALJ found that K.D. had less than marked limitations
in the functional domains of acquiring and using information and health and
physical well-being, and that K.D. had no limitation in the remaining
domains of attending and completing tasks, interacting and relating with
others, moving about and manipulating objects, and caring for oneself. (Tr.
at 13-26); see 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(1). As the ALJ acknowledged,
some record evidence does indicate that K.D.’s herpes meningitis caused
difficulties with respect to the first two of these domains, but there was still
a sound foundation for the ALJ’s conclusion that these limitations were not
“marked,” i.e., that they did not “interfere[ ] seriously with [K.D.’s] ability to
independently initiate, sustain, or complete activities.” 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.926a(e)(2). Accordingly, for the reasons articulated by Judge Hines,
the court finds that the decision of the ALJ is free from legal error and
supported by substantial evidence.
Remaining Findings and Conclusions
Having addressed Cudworth’s specific objection de novo, and
otherwise finding no clear error in the R&R, the court accepts and adopts
Judge Hines’ R&R in its entirety.
WHEREFORE, for the foregoing reasons, it is hereby
ORDERED that Magistrate Judge Earl S. Hines’ June 20, 2014
Report and Recommendation (Dkt. No. 14) is ADOPTED in its entirety; and
it is further
ORDERED that the decision of the Commissioner is AFFIRMED and
Cudworth’s complaint (Dkt. No. 1) is DISMISSED; and it is further
ORDERED that the Clerk close this case; and it is further
ORDERED that the Clerk provide a copy of this MemorandumDecision and Order to the parties.
IT IS SO ORDERED.
September 29, 2014
Albany, New York
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