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Quatrone v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 21, 2017

PATRICK QUATRONE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          RULING ON PENDING MOTIONS

          WILLIAM I. GARFINKEL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Patrick Quatrone 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. # 14]. Defendant has responded with a motion to affirm the decision of the Commissioner. [Doc. # 15]. The undersigned heard oral argument on February 15, 2017.[1] For the reasons that follow, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed.

         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

         Plaintiff filed his DIB application on February 21, 2012, alleging a disability onset date of December 21, 2011.[2] His claims were denied at both the initial and reconsideration levels. Thereafter, Plaintiff appeared and testified at a hearing before administrative law judge Lisa Groeneveld-Meijer (“the ALJ”) on August 20, 2013. On October 23, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's claims. The Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision, making it the final decision of the Commissioner. This action followed.

         Plaintiff was fifty years old on the alleged onset date. (R. 31). He has prior work experience as a collections manager, and he last worked in this position in 2009. (R. 54). In accordance with the Court's scheduling order, the parties stipulated to Plaintiff's medical background as presented in the briefs accompanying Plaintiff's motion. The Court adopts these facts and incorporates them by reference herein.

         The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ followed the sequential evaluation process for assessing disability claims. At Step One, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date. (R. 33). At Step Two, the ALJ found the following severe impairments: dysthymia with anxiety; back and neck pain due to bilateral spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis at ¶ 5 and spina bifida occulta in the sacrum; and diverticulosis. (R. 34). At Step Three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments. (R. 34-35). Next, the ALJ determined Plaintiff retained the following residual functional capacity:[3]

Plaintiff can perform light work except he should not climb ladders, ropes, scaffolds, or stairs. He can frequently climb ramps, and can frequently perform other postural activities, such as kneeling, bending, stooping, crawling, and balancing. He should avoid potential hazards, such as moving mechanical parts and unprotected heights. He should not be exposed to concentrated loud noises. He can perform routine work with few changes day to day, no contact with the general public, no tandem tasks, and only brief and superficial interaction with others on shift. He should not perform belt-paced work. He requires the option to change positions two to three times per hour to stretch at the work station.

         (R. 35-39). At Step Four, the ALJ found Plaintiff was unable to perform his past relevant work

         (R. 31). Finally, at Step Five, the ALJ relied on the testimony of a vocational expert (“VE”) to find that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform given his age, education level, and RFC.[4] (R. 39-40). Accordingly, the ALJ found Plaintiff not to be disabled.

         Discussion

         Plaintiff raises several issues on appeal, most of which pertain to the ALJ's evaluation of the opinion of Dr. Gervasi, ...


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