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Adams v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

September 22, 2016

GLENN ADAMS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          RULING

          WILLIAM I. GARFINKEL, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Glenn Adams has filed this appeal of the adverse decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). Plaintiff now moves, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for an order reversing this decision, or in the alternative remanding the matter for rehearing. [Doc. # 13]. Defendant has responded with a motion to affirm the decision of the Commissioner. [Doc. # 15]. The undersigned heard oral argument on September 16, 2016. After careful consideration of the arguments raised by both sides, the Court has determined that this matter should be remanded for additional proceedings consistent with this Ruling.

         Legal Standard

         The standards for determining a claimant's entitlement to disability benefits, the Commissioner's five-step framework for evaluating disability claims, and the district court's review of the Commissioner's final decision are well-established. The Court is following those standards, but does not repeat them here.

         Background[1]

         Plaintiff's DIB application alleged a disability onset date of September 23, 2011. His claim was denied at both the initial and reconsideration levels. On November 19, 2013, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge Ryan A. Alger (“the ALJ”). The ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim in a decision dated January 21, 2014. The ALJ found at step one in the sequential evaluation process that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. (R. 13). At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's severe impairments were diabetes and spine disorder. (R. 14). At the third step, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments, singly and in combination, did not meet or equal the severity of any of the listed impairments. (R. 14-15). The ALJ then found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform the full range of light work. (R. 15). The ALJ ended his analysis at step four upon finding that Plaintiff was capable of performing his past relevant work as a shuttle driver. (R. 18).

         After the ALJ's unfavorable decision, Plaintiff requested Appeals Council (“AC”) review. (R. 7). Along with his request for review, Plaintiff submitted additional evidence to the AC. This evidence consisted of an electromyography (“EMG”) taken on May 12, 2014. (R. 303-305). The EMG consultant, Dr. Boland, opined that the EMG was abnormal, with electrodiagnostic evidence of chronic L5 segmental axon loss (denervation) most consistent with the chronic lumbar radiculopathy at that level. (R. 303). Dr. Boland also opined that there was mild chronic axon loss in one L2-4 segment muscle (vastus lateralis, femoral nerve) which was not further localizable. (Id.). There was no acute or recent appearing denervation. (Id.).

         The AC denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R. 1-5). In its denial, the AC found that the new evidence did not provide a basis for changing the ALJ's decision.[2] (R. 2). The AC's denial became the final decision of the Commissioner; this action followed.

         Discussion

         The AC's evaluation of additional evidence is governed by 20 C.F.R. § 405.401(c). This regulation provides as follows:

If you submit additional evidence, the Appeals Council will consider the additional evidence only where it relates to the period on or before the date of the hearing decision, and only if you show that there is a reasonable probability that the evidence, alone or when considered with the other evidence of record, would change the outcome of the decision, and
(1) Our action misled you;
(2) You had a physical, mental, educational, or linguistic limitation(s) that prevented you from submitting the evidence earlier; or
(3) Some other unusual, unexpected, or unavoidable circumstance beyond your control prevented you from ...

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