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Hiram Irizarry Martinez v. Michael J. Astrue

October 19, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Buckwalter, S.J.


Currently before the Court are the Objections of the Plaintiff Hiram Irizarry Martinez to the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Jacob P. Hart. Having engaged in a thorough review of the Objections, the Response of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner"), the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, and the certified administrative record of evidence, the Court overrules the Objections and adopts the Report and Recommendation in its entirety.


On March 20, 2008, Plaintiff Hiram Irizarry Martinez, who was then forty-four years old, filed a petition for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") pursuant to Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 301, et seq. (R. 53-58.) Plaintiff alleged disability beginning as of the date of filing*fn2 due to mental health problems, a herniated disc, diabetes, asthma, and heart problems. (R. 60.) As a result of the state agency's denial of his application on initial review, (R. 44-48), Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing. (R. 39.) Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Deborah Mande presided over the hearing on July 7, 2009, at which time a vocational expert testified. (R. 530-44.) In an opinion issued July 16, 2009, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim for benefits, finding that he retained the residual functional capacity to perform simple, repetitive, light exertional work, in a low stress environment with infrequent changes and no contact with the public. (R. 12-28.) As the vocational expert could identify several jobs in the regional and national economies fitting this profile, the ALJ deemed Plaintiff not disabled. (R. 27.) Plaintiff thereafter sought review by the Appeals Counsel, which denied his request on September 7, 2010, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. 5.)

Plaintiff initiated the current action on October 29, 2010, seeking federal judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. The Court referred the matter to Magistrate Judge Jacob P. Hart, who issued a Report and Recommendation ("R&R"), dated September 6, 2011, affirming the Commissioner's decision. Plaintiff filed Objections to the Report and Recommendation on September 20, 2011, and the Commissioner responded on October 7, 2011.


A. Standard for Judicial Review of an ALJ's Decision

It is well-established that judicial review of the Commissioner's decision is limited to determining whether "substantial evidence" supports the decision. Monsour Med. Ctr. v. Heckler, 806 F.2d 1185, 1190 (3d Cir. 1986). "Substantial evidence 'does not mean a large or considerable amount of evidence, but rather such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir. 1999) (quoting Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 564-65 (1988)). When making this determination, a reviewing court may not undertake a de novo review of the Commissioner's decision and may not re-weigh the evidence of record. Monsour, 806 F.2d at 1190. In other words, even if the reviewing court, acting de novo, would have decided the case differently, the Commissioner's decision must be affirmed when supported by substantial evidence. Id. at 1190-91; see also Gilmore v. Barnhart, 356 F. Supp. 2d 509, 511 (E.D. Pa. 2005) (holding that the court's scope of review is "limited to determining whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards and whether the record, as a whole, contains substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's findings of fact") (quoting Schwartz v. Halter, 134 F. Supp. 2d 640, 647 (E.D. Pa. 2001)).

B. Standard of Review of Objections to a Report and Recommendation

Where a party makes a timely and specific objection to a portion of a report and recommendation by a United States Magistrate Judge, the district court is obliged to engage inde novoreview of only those issues raised on objection. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) (2005); see also Sample v. Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1106 n.3 (3d Cir. 1989). In so doing, a court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings and recommendations" contained in the report.

28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). The court may also, in the exercise of sound judicial discretion, rely on the Magistrate Judge's proposed findings and recommendations. See United v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 676 (1980).


Plaintiff presently raises four Objections to the Report and Recommendation. Specifically, he contends that: (1) the Magistrate Judge's finding that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's conclusion that Plaintiff has no "severe" back impairment is erroneous; (2) the Magistrate Judge's analysis of the ALJ's evaluation of the opinions by treating physician (Dr. Talangbayan) and examining physician (Dr. Orlow) is contrary to law and fact; (3) the Magistrate Judge's conclusion that the new and material evidence submitted to the Appeals Council was not material is unsupported by law or fact; and (4) the Magistrate Judge's analysis of the ALJ's evaluation of ...

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