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Twigg v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

February 13, 2018

JASON D. TWIGG, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER REMANDING CASE

          Alvin W. Thompson, United States District Judge

         For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner is reversed and this case is remanded for additional proceedings consistent with this order.

         The court's function when reviewing a denial of disability benefits is first to ascertain whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal principles in reaching a conclusion, and then whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence. See Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d 983, 985 (2d Cir. 1987). Absent legal error, this court may not set aside the decision of the Commissioner if it is supported by substantial evidence. See Berry v. Schweiker, 675 F.2d 464, 467 (2d Cir. 1982).

         The plaintiff argues that remand is required in this case because:

1. The finding that Plaintiff does not meet the listing of 1.04 (Spinal Disorder) is contrary to the evidence in the record.
2. The finding that Plaintiff does not meet the listing of 1.02 (Major Dysfunction of a Joint) is contrary to the evidence in the record.
3. Improper weight (greater than appropriate) was afforded to state agency medical consultants who didn't examine the Plaintiff.
4. Improper weight (less than appropriate) and/or consideration was afforded to Plaintiffs treating physicians where there was a longevity of treatment, testing and surgery performed and multiple examinations of Plaintiff.
5. The finding that the Plaintiff can engage in substantial gainful employment at a light duty capacity is contrary to the evidence in the record.

         Plf's Memo. (Doc. No. 16) at 17-18. The Commissioner contends that the ALJ correctly found that the plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled a listed impairment, that the ALJ properly evaluated the evidence of record, and that substantial evidence supported the ALJ's finding with respect to a residual functional capacity for a range of light work.

         The court concludes that this case must be remanded because the ALJ failed to follow the treating physician rule (i.e. plaintiff's third and fourth arguments) and, in addition, failed to develop the record as he was required to in this case, so the court does not address the plaintiff's other arguments.

         “[T]he opinion of a claimant's treating physician as to the nature and severity of the impairment is given ‘controlling weight' so long as it ‘is well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence in [the] case record.'” Burgess v. Astrue, 537 F.3d 117, 128 (2d Cir. 2008) (quoting 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d)(2)); see also Mariani v. Colvin, 567 Fed.Appx. 8, 10 (2d Cir. 2014) (holding that “[a] treating physician's opinion need not be given controlling weight where it is not well-supported or is not consistent with the opinions of other medical experts” where those other opinions amount to “substantial evidence to undermine the opinion of the treating physician”). “The regulations further provide that even if controlling weight is not given to the opinions of the treating physician, the ALJ may still assign some weight to those views, and must specifically explain the weight that is actually given to the opinion.” Schrack v. Astrue, 608 F.Supp.2d 297, 301 (D. Conn. 2009) (citing Schupp v. Barnhart, No. Civ. 3:02CV103 (WWE), 2004 WL 1660579, at *9 (D. Conn. Mar. 12, 2004)). It is “within the province of the ALJ to credit portions of a treating physician's report while declining to accept other portions of the same report, where the record contained conflicting opinions on the same medical condition.” Pavia v. Colvin, No. 6:14-cv-06379 (MAT), 2015 WL 4644537, at *4 (W.D.N.Y. Aug. 4, 2015) (citing Veino v. Barnhart, 312 F.3d 578, 588 (2d Cir. 2002)).

         In determining the amount of weight to give to a medical opinion, the ALJ must consider several factors: the examining relationship, the treatment relationship (the length, the frequency of examination, the nature and extent), evidence in support of the medical opinion, consistency with the record, specialty in the medical field, and any other relevant factors. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(1)-(6). In the Second Circuit, “all of the factors cited in the regulations” must be considered to avoid legal error. Schaal v. Apfel 134 F.3d 496, 504 (2d Cir. 1998). Failure to provide “good reasons” for not crediting the opinion of a claimant's treating physician is a ground for remand. Snell v. Apfel, 177 F.3d 128, 133-34 (2d Cir. 1999)(citing Schaal, 134 F.3d at 505).

         In Rosa v. Callahan,168 F.3d 72, 79 (2d Cir. 1999), the court explained the ALJ's obligation to fill gaps in the administrative record prior to ...


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