Schuster v. Colvin
DECISION AND ORDER denying 8 Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings; granting 10 Commissioner's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings; adopting Report and Recommendations in its entirety re 13 Report and Recommendations. (clerk to close case.) Signed by Hon. Michael A. Telesca on 5/11/17. (JMC)-CLERK TO FOLLOW UP-
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
WESTERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
BRENT J. SCHUSTER,
-vsCOMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY,
Plaintiff Brent J. Schuster(“plaintiff”) brings this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), claiming that the Commissioner of
Social Security (“Commissioner” or “defendant”) improperly denied
his applications for supplemental security income (“SSI”) payments
and disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under the Social Security
Act (“SSA”). Currently before the Court are the parties’ competing
motions for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
On October 20, 2016, Magistrate Judge Leslie G. Foschio issued
a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) (Docket No. 13) recommending
that defendant’s motion be granted and plaintiff’s motion be
As discussed further below, the Court agrees with Judge
Foschio’s findings and adopts the R&R in its entirety.
When specific objections are made to a magistrate judge’s
report and recommendation, the district judge makes a “de novo
determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed
findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C.
When only general objections are made to a
magistrate judge’s report and recommendation, the district judge
reviews it for clear error or manifest injustice. E.g., Brown v.
Peters, 1997 WL 599355, at *2-3 (N.D.N.Y. Sept. 22, 1997), aff’d,
175 F.3d 1007 (2d Cir. 1999).
After conducing the appropriate
review, the district court may “accept, reject, or modify, in whole
or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate
judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).
Plaintiff’s applications for SSI and DIB, initially denied,
were filed on July 27, 2011 and alleged disability beginning on
August 1, 2007 due to back injury, two back surgeries, a disc
replacement, and a fusion. Administrative Transcript (hereinafter
Following a hearing before an administrative law
judge (“ALJ”), during which testimony was taken from plaintiff and
a vocational expert (“VE”), the ALJ issued an unfavorable finding
that plaintiff was not disabled under the SSA.
In her decision, the ALJ found that plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work with the
following limitations: sit for four hours and stand or walk for two
hours; alternate positions every 30 minutes between sitting and
standing; no overhead reaching or pushing/pulling; occasional use
of foot controls, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling; no
balancing, climbing, or exposure to extreme temperatures.
On April 25, 2014, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff’s request
for review of the ALJ’s decision.
The present action
In his response to the R&R, plaintiff raises one specific
objection - namely, that Judge Foschio incorrectly concluded that
the ALJ properly assessed the opinion of treating physician Paul S.
conclusion, Dr. Holley’s opinion was consistent with plaintiff’s
self-reported activities of daily living and the other evidence of
record and should have been afforded controlling weight under the
treating physician rule..
Upon its de novo review and after careful consideration of
plaintiff’s objections, the Court accepts Judge Foschio’s proposed
findings and recommendation.
The treating physician rule requires
an ALJ to give controlling weight to a treating physician’s opinion
inconsistent with the other substantial evidence in [the] record.”
20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2); see also Green-Younger v. Barnhart, 335
F.3d 99, 106 (2d Cir. 2003). However, an ALJ may give less than
controlling weight to a treating physician's opinion if it does not
meet this standard, so long as she sets forth the reasons for her
See Halloran v. Barnhart, 362 F.3d 28, 33 (2d Cir.
2004); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2) (“We will always give good
reasons in our notice of determination or decision for the weight
we give [the claimant's] treating source's opinion.”).
ALJ adequately explained her reasons for affording less than
controlling weight to Dr. Holley’s opinion. In particular, the ALJ
plaintiff’s self-reported activities, which included providing
daily childcare for his three-year-old daughter.
The ALJ was
within her rights to conclude that the restrictions set forth in
Dr. Holley’s opinion, which included lying down for large portions
of the day and never stooping, crawling, or crouching, would render
an individual incapable of caring for an active toddler. Moreover,
and as discussed in the ALJ’s decision, the clinical findings of
plaintiff’s surgeon and the physical evaluations of plaintiff by
consultative physicians Fred Cohen, M.D., and Samuel Balderman,
Dr. Holley. Notably, Dr. Balderman, a thoracic surgeon, found that
plaintiff’s cervical spine showed full flexion and extension and
fully rotary movement bilaterally.
Under these circumstances, the
Dr. Holley’s opinion was inconsistent with the other substantial
evidence in the record.
The Court agrees with Judge Foschio that
plaintiff’s contention that the ALJ violated the treating physician
rule is without merit.
undersigned adopts all of Judge Foschio’s conclusions.
Commissioner’s motion for a judgment on the pleadings (Docket
No. 10) is granted, and plaintiff’s motion for a judgment on the
pleadings is denied (Docket No. 8).
The Clerk of Court is
requested to close this case.
ALL OF THE ABOVE IS SO ORDERED.
S/Michael A. Telesca
MICHAEL A. TELESCA
United States District Judge
May 11, 2017
Rochester, New York
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