United States District Court, D. Connecticut
JANE DOE ex rel. A.M., Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
RULING DENYING MOTION TO REVERSE THE DECISION OF THE
COMMISSIONER AND GRANTING MOTION TO AFFIRM THE DECISION OF
JEFFREY ALKER MEYER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
se plaintiff Jane Doe, on behalf of her minor daughter,
A.M., seeks an award of supplemental security income based on
her claim that A.M. has been disabled since 2008 due to
attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, post-traumatic
stress disorder, mood swings, and emotional disorder. An ALJ
determined that A.M. was not disabled and denied the claim.
The parties filed cross-motions for judicial review, and
Magistrate Judge Joan G. Margolis issued a 43-page ruling
(Doc. #19) recommending that I deny plaintiff's motion to
reverse the decision of the Commissioner (Doc. #13) and that
I grant defendant's motion to affirm the decision of the
Commissioner (Doc. #14).
filed a timely objection (Doc. #20) to Judge Margolis's
ruling. I assume familiarity with the factual record and
governing law as described at length by Judge Margolis.
See also Frye ex rel. A.O. v. Astrue, 485 F.
App'x 484, 486-87 (2d Cir. 2012) (discussing legal
framework applicable to claim on behalf of a child for
supplemental security income under the Social Security Act).
The Court “conduct[s] a plenary review of the
administrative record to determine if there is substantial
evidence, considering the record as a whole, to support the
Commissioner's decision and if the correct legal
standards have been applied.” Moran v. Astrue,
569 F.3d 108, 112 (2d Cir. 2009).
asserts several arguments in her objection to Judge
Margolis's ruling. First, plaintiff argues that the ALJ
“placed far too much emphasis on his own very limited
interaction with the child at the hearing, the child's
ability to hold a very rudimentary conversation with the
‘ALJ' in determining the degree of limitation,
non-substantial evidence of Dr. Fuess and state agency
medical consultants Drs. Augenbaun and Leib, and far too
little emphasis on the records, reports, and opinions of
treating physicians, school psychologist and personnel when
determining medical impairment and functionality.” Doc.
#20 at 3.
asking me to second-guess how the ALJ weighted the evidence
in this case, plaintiff's objection overlooks the limited
scope of judicial review of an ALJ's decision. Absent a
claim that the ALJ misstated or misapplied the law, my role
is to determine solely if the ALJ's assessment of the
evidence was supported by substantial evidence even if I
might have weighed the evidence differently or reached a
different conclusion. See Burgess v. Astrue, 537
F.3d 117, 127 (2d Cir. 2008); Jacques v. U.S. R.R. Ret.
Bd., 736 F.2d 34, 40 (2d Cir. 1984). “Even where
the administrative record may also adequately support
contrary findings on particular issues, the ALJ's factual
findings must be given conclusive effect so long as they are
supported by substantial evidence.” See Genier v.
Astrue, 606 F.3d 46, 49 (2d Cir. 2010). I agree with
Judge Margolis's detailed assessment of the evidence and
how the ALJ's decision was supported by substantial
extent that plaintiff's objection as quoted above could
be read to suggest that the ALJ failed to follow the treating
physician rule, plaintiff does not identify the relevant
treating physicians or further explain how the ALJ failed to
abide by the treating physician rule. It appears instead that
plaintiff's complaint is that “the ALJ relied on
records that described the positive aspects of the
child's school performance and ignored reports from
teachers that she required constant supervision in highly
structured schools and treatment programs.” Doc. #20 at
4; see also Id. at 5 (arguing that the ALJ
“only gave ‘some weight' to the opinion of
the child's classroom teacher and school psychologists
that the child often had difficulty. . . .” and that
“the classroom teacher had by far the most direct
experience interacting with the child and that she was
uniquely qualified to compare the child's abilities to
that of a typical peer”). In any event, Judge
Margolis's ruling describes at great length the opinions
of medical and school personnel (Doc. #19 at 19-27), and I
agree with Judge Margolis's point-by-point conclusions
(Doc. #19 at 36-43) that substantial evidence supported the
ALJ's conclusions notwithstanding evidence from some
evaluations that was more favorable to plaintiff's
further contends that the ALJ gave too much weight to the
testimony of Dr. Fuess as well as to the opinions of state
agency medical consultants while rejecting the testimony of a
court-appointed psychologist. Doc. #20 at 3. Based on my
review of the ALJ's decision and its interpretation of
the evidence, I conclude that the ALJ did not err as a matter
of law with respect to his consideration of the medical
testimony and evidence. Plaintiff does not explain why the
facts or the law required the ALJ to weigh these opinions
differently than he did.
plaintiff contends that the ALJ erroneously discounted the
testimony of A.M.'s mother and that an ALJ “may not
discredit the claimant's testimony as to the severity of
symptoms merely because they are unsupported by objective
medical evidence.” Doc. #20 at 4; see also Id.
at 7 (same argument). That is not correct. An ALJ may engage
in credibility determinations and may permissibly base such
credibility determinations in part on the absence of
corroborating evidence. See, e.g., Martin v.
Astrue, 337 F. App'x 87, 90 (2d Cir. 2009)
(affirming ALJ credibility determination “that the
objective medical evidence did not corroborate
[claimant's] subjective claims of disabling pain”);
see also Penfield v. Colvin, 563 F. App'x 839,
840 (2d Cir. 2014) (same).
reasons set forth above, I ADOPT and APPROVE the recommended
ruling of Judge Margolis (Doc. #19). Plaintiff's motion
to reverse or remand (Doc. #13) is DENIED, and
defendant's motion to affirm the decision of the