Almodovar v. Colvin
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER adopting 25 Report and Recommendations re: 19 Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings filed by Carolyn W. Colvin, 15 Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings filed by David Almodovar: Magistrate Judge Netburn's Report and Recommendation is adopted. Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings, (ECF No. 15), is GRANTED, and the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings, (ECF No. 19), is DENIED. In addition, the Commissioner's de nial of benefits is VACATED, and this case is REMANDED to the Social Security Administration for further proceedings in accordance with this opinion and Magistrate Judge Netburn's findings and recommendations. The Clerk of Court is directed to close the motions at ECF Nos. 15 and 19, and this case, accordingly. (Signed by Judge George B. Daniels on 2/9/2018) (jwh)
UNITED ST ATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
16 Civ. 7419 (GBD) (SN)
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
GEORGE B. DANIELS, United States District Judge:
Plaintiff David Almodovar brings this action under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3), seeking review of the final determination by the Commissioner of Social
Security that he is ineligible for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income.
(Compl., ECF No. 1,
1-2.) Plaintiff and the Commissioner both move for judgment on the
pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. (See Almodovar Mot.
for J. on the Pleadings, ECF No. 15; Comm'r Mot. for J. on the Pleadings, ECF No. 19.) Before
this Court is Magistrate Judge Sarah Netburn's January 22, 2018 Report and Recommendation
("Report," ECF No. 25), recommending that Plaintiffs motion be granted, the Commissioner's
motion be denied, and that this case be remanded to the Social Security Administration for further
analysis in line with the treating physician rule. 1 (Report at 20.)
Magistrate Judge Netburn advised the parties that failure to file timely objections to the
Report would constitute a waiver of those objections on appeal. (Report at 20.) To date, no
objections have been filed. Having reviewed the Report for clear error and finding none, this Court
ADOPTS the Report in full.
The relevant procedural and factual background is set forth in greater detail in the Report, and is
LEGAL ST AND ARDS
A court "may accept, reject, or modify, in whole or m part, the findings or
recommendations" set forth within a magistrate judge's report. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(l)(C). The
court must review de nova the portions of a magistrate judge's report to which a party properly
objects. Id. Portions of a magistrate judge's report to which no or "merely perfunctory" objections
are made are reviewed for clear error. See Edwards v. Fischer, 414 F. Supp. 2d 342, 346-47
(S.D.N.Y. 2006) (citation omitted). Clear error is present only when "upon review of the entire
record, [the court is] left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed."
United States v. Snow, 462 F.3d 55, 72 (2d Cir. 2006) (citation omitted).
This Court has the "power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a
judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security,
with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This Court may set
aside a decision by the Commissioner only if it is based upon legal error or not otherwise supported
by substantial evidence.
Newsome v. Astrue, 817 F. Supp. 2d 111, 124 (E.D.N.Y. 2011).
"Substantial evidence means more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Burgess v. Astrue, 537 F.3d
117, 127 (2d Cir. 2008) (citation and quotation marks omitted).
THE "TREATING PHYSICIAN RULE"
It is well established that, in reviewing a claimant's request for benefits, the Commissioner
must accord "special evidentiary weight to the opinion of the [claimant's] treating physician, as
long as the treating physician's opinion is supported by medically acceptable techniques, results
from frequent examinations, and is supported by the administrative record." Newsome, 817 F.
Supp. 2d at 128 (citing Clarkv. Comm 'r of Soc. Sec., 143 F.3d 115, 118 (2d Cir. 1998)). The socalled "treating physician rule" is rooted in the principle that treating physicians "are likely to be
the medical professionals most able to provide a detailed, longitudinal picture of [a claimant's]
medical impairment(s) and may bring a unique perspective to the medical evidence that cannot be
obtained from the objective medical findings alone or from reports of individual examinations,
such as consultative examinations or brief hospitalizations." 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(c)(2). As such,
the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") must provide "good reasons" in his notice of determination
or decision for the weight he affords to the treating physician's opinion. Id.; see also Burgess, 537
F.3d at 129 ("After considering the [relevant factors at 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(c)(2)-(6)], the ALJ
must "comprehensively set forth [his] reasons for the weight assigned to a treating physician's
opinion."). Failure to do so is a ground for remand. Greek v. Colvin, 802 F.3d 370, 375 (2d Cir.
2015) (citation omitted).
The Report properly found that the ALJ committed legal error in failing to apply the
treating physician rule. (Report at 18.) The Report correctly concluded that the ALJ failed to give
appropriate weight to the medical opinion provided by Dr. Carvajal, Plaintiff's primary care
physician, which was supported both by medically acceptable diagnostic techniques and other
evidence in the administrative record. (Id. at 10, 16-17.) The Report also correctly noted that the
ALJ failed to specifically address the relevant factors justifying his decision to override Dr.
Carvajal's opinion, as required by federal regulation. (See id. at 18.) Under these circumstances,
remand to the Social Security Administration is warranted. This Court also adopts the Report's
recommendation that, in evaluating Plaintiff's credibility on remand, the ALJ explicitly consider
his extensive thirty-seven-year work history.
Magistrate Judge Netburn's Report and Recommendation is adopted. Plaintiff's motion
for judgment on the pleadings, (ECF No. 15), is GRANTED, and the Commissioner's motion for
judgment on the pleadings, (ECF No. 19), is DENIED. In addition, the Commissioner's denial of
benefits is VACATED, and this case is REMANDED to the Social Security Administration for
further proceedings in accordance with this opinion and Magistrate Judge Netbum's findings and
The Clerk of Court is directed to close the motions at ECF Nos. 15 and 19, and this case,
Dated: New York, New York
February 9, 2018
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United States District Judge
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