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Lesterhuis v. Colvin

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

November 6, 2015

MARC LESTERHUIS, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant-Appellee

Submitted October 30, 2015.

Appeal from a judgment of the district court (Wolford, J.), granting the defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings. We hold that the Social Security Administration administrative law judge's determination that the plaintiff was not disabled is not supported by substantial evidence in the record, which includes a medical opinion submitted only to the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council, but not to the administrative law judge. We therefore VACATE the district court's judgment and REMAND to the Commissioner for further proceedings.

William J. McDonald, Jr., Bond, McDonald & Lehman, P.C., Geneva, New York, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Andreea Lechleitner, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney, and Stephen P. Conte, Regional Chief Counsel, Region II, Office of the General Counsel, Social Security Administration, for William J. Hochul, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Western District of New York, New York, New York, for Defendant-Appellee.

Before: KATZMANN, Chief Judge, POOLER and CHIN, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 84

Per Curiam:

A Social Security Administration (" SSA" ) administrative law judge (" ALJ" ) denied Plaintiff-Appellant Marc Lesterhuis's application for Social Security disability benefits. After the SSA's Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision, Lesterhuis sought review of the agency's determination in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York (Wolford, J. ), which granted the defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings.

This appeal centers on a medical opinion provided by one of Lesterhuis's treating physicians, Dr. Donovan Holder. Lesterhuis submitted Dr. Holder's opinion to the Appeals Council, not to the ALJ. The Appeals Council added Dr. Holder's opinion to the record, but it nevertheless summarily denied review of the ALJ's decision. Lesterhuis now argues both that the Appeals Council erred by failing to provide an explanation for why it disregarded the treating physician's opinion and that the ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial evidence in light of Dr. Holder's opinion.[1]

We hold that the ALJ's determination is not supported by substantial evidence in the record. Accordingly, we VACATE the district court's judgment and REMAND to the Commissioner for further proceedings.

Page 85

BACKGROUND

Lesterhuis is currently forty-seven years old. He has an eleventh-grade education and worked for twenty-two years as a heavy truck driver for Golden State Foods. Lesterhuis experienced serious back pain in the aftermath of a June 9, 2008 injury. He left work in July 2008, but tried unsuccessfully to return to work on light duty for a few weeks in September 2008. Lesterhuis has undergone a series of treatments, including surgery, for his injury, but these treatments have not significantly improved his condition.

Lesterhuis eventually filed a claim for Social Security disability benefits on January 8, 2009, alleging a disability onset date of July 12, 2008. The claim was initially denied on May 15, 2009. Lesterhuis ...


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