United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER REMANDING CASE
W. Thompson, United States District Judge
reasons set forth below, the decision of the Commissioner is
reversed and this case is remanded for additional proceedings
consistent with this order.
district court reviewing a final  decision . . . [of the
Commissioner of Social Security] pursuant to section 205(g)
of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C § 405(g), is
performing an appellate function.” Zambrana v.
Califano, 651 F.2d 842, 844 (2d Cir. 1981). The court
may not make a de novo determination of whether a plaintiff
is disabled in reviewing a denial of disability benefits. See
Wagner v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs.,
906 F.2d 856, 860 (2d Cir. 1990). Rather, the court's
function is to ascertain whether the Commissioner applied the
correct legal principles in reaching a conclusion and whether
the decision is supported by substantial evidence. See
Johnson v. Bowen, 817 F.2d 983, 985 (2d Cir. 1987).
plaintiff contends that the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”): “1) failed to properly consider
Ms. Blackman's Borderline Personality Disorder under the
Listing of impairments and to make specific findings on this
issue; 2) failed to make proper weight assignments as to the
opinions of Ms. Blackman's treating sources; and 3)
failed to properly determine Ms. Blackman's Residual
Functional Capacity (“RFC”). Pl.'s Mot. to
Reverse (“ECF No. 15-1”) at 2.
defendant argues that the ALJ applied the correct legal
standards and that substantial evidence supported the
ALJ's Decision. See Def.'s Mot. to Affirm (ECF No.
16-1) at 20.
court concludes that, at minimum, the ALJ failed to properly
apply the treating physician rule to treating psychiatrist
Sudha Sreenivasan's opinion that the plaintiff was unable
to work in any capacity due to her mental status. This,
standing alone, warrants remand.
must evaluate “[e]very medical opinion”. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1527(c). “Medical opinions” are
statements from acceptable medical sources that reflect
judgments about the nature and severity of a claimant's
impairments, including symptoms, diagnosis, prognosis, and
restrictions. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(a)(1). Medical
opinions from acceptable medical sources are entitled to
“controlling weight” if “well-supported by
medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic
techniques” and “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))(internal quotation marks
controlling weight is not given to the opinions of the
treating physician, the ALJ . . . 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)).
“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 v.
Apfel, 134 F.3d 496, 505 (2d Cir. 1998)). These reasons
must be stated explicitly and set forth comprehensively. See
Burgin v. Asture, 348 Fed.Appx. 646, 649 (2d Cir
2009) (“The ALJ's consideration must be explicit in
the record.”); Tavarez v. Barnhart, 124
Fed.Appx. 48, 49 (2d Cir. 2005) (“We do not hesitate to
remand when the Commissioner . . . do[es] not comprehensively
set forth reasons for the weight assigned . . . .”)
(internal quotation marks and citation omitted); Reyes v.
Barnhart, 226 F.Supp.2d 523, 529 (E.D.N.Y.
2002)(“rigorous and detailed” analysis required).
determining the amount of weight to give to a medical
opinion, the ALJ must consider all of the factors set forth
in § 404.1527(c): 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. See
Schaal, 134 F.3d at 504 (“all of the factors cited in
the regulations” must be considered to avoid legal
opinions are from medical sources other than
“acceptable medical sources”, the ALJ must still
consider the opinions, apply the factors, and explain the
weight given. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1527(f). Regardless of whether the opinion is from
an acceptable medical source or an “other
source”, the ALJ's explanation should be supported
by the evidence and be specific enough to make clear to the
claimant and any subsequent reviewers the reasons and the
weight given. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(f)(2); SSR 96-2p
(applicable but rescinded effective March 27, 2017, after the
date of the ALJ's decision).
[W]here there are deficiencies in the record, an ALJ is under
an affirmative obligation to develop a claimant's medical
history “even when the claimant is represented by
counsel or . . . by a paralegal.” Perez, 77 F.3d at 47;
see also Pratts, 94 F.3d at 37 (“It is the rule in our
circuit that ‘the ALJ, unlike a judge in a trial, must
 affirmatively develop the record' in light of
‘the essentially non-adversarial nature of a benefits
proceeding.'[. . . ].”) (citations omitted).
Rosa v. Callahan, 168 F.3d 72, 79 (2d Cir. 1999).
See also Clark v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 143 F.3d
115, 118-19 (2d Cir. 1998) (holding that the ALJ should have
sought clarifying information sua sponte because the doctor
might have been able to provide a supporting medical
explanation and clinical findings, that failure to include
support did not mean that support did not exist, and that the
doctor might have included it had he known that the ALJ would
consider it dispositive).
duty to develop the record “is heightened in cases
where the claimant is mentally impaired”, as is the
case here. Shand v. Colvin, No. 3:15 CV 761 (JGM),
2018 WL 389179, at *14 (citing Robinson v. Colvin,
No. 14 CV 1227 (HBF), 2016 WL 7668439, at *6 (D. Conn. Dec.
20, 2016) (citing Dervin v. Astrue, 407 Fed.Appx.
154, 156 (9th Cir. 2010), Magistrate Judge's Recommended
Ruling approved and adopted absent objection, No. 3:14 CV
1227 (MPS), 2017 WL 80403 (D. Conn. Jan. 9, 2017))).
Gaps in the administrative record warrant remand . . . .
Sobolewski v. Apfel,985 F.Supp. 300, 314
(E.D.N.Y.1997); see Echevarria v. Secretary of Health
& Hum. Servs.,685 F.2d ...