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Rodriguez v. Colvin

United States District Court, Third Circuit

October 4, 2013

EULALIA LALA RODRIGUEZ
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Acting Commissioner of Social Security[1]

ORDER

STEWART DALZELL, District Judge.

AND NOW, this 4th day of October, 2013, upon consideration of our August 13, 2012 Order to refer this matter to the Honorable Lynne A. Sitarski in accordance with the procedure for the random assignment of Social Security cases, Local Rule 72.1, and 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1)(B) (docket entry #14); after careful and independent review of the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Lynne A. Sitarski (docket entry #18) which recommends that plaintiff's request for review be denied, and plaintiff's objections to the Report and Recommendation (R&R), and the Court finding that:

(a) Rodriguez's request for review under 42 U.S.C. §405(g) is before us for a second time, R&R at 1-2;

(b) Rodriguez originally applied for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) on July 27, 2006, alleging that she had been disabled since July 12, 2006 due to high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and panic attacks, Report and Recommendation I, dated April 10, 2010 (R&R I) (docket entry # 8, Exhibit 10 at 9);

(c) After Rodriguez's application was denied, an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) held a hearing at which she was represented, and he determined in a October 20, 2008 decision that Rodriguez was insured for disability benefits through December 31, 2007 but was not entitled to DIB or SSI; additionally, he found she was capable of performing a significant number of jobs that exist in the national economy, id., a decision she appealed on March 23, 2009, id.;

(d) At the conclusion of the prior proceeding, C.A. No. 09-1249, we approved and adopted Judge Sitarski's Report and Recommendation, agreeing with her conclusion that the ALJ had failed to make comprehensive findings with regard to the plaintiff's alleged mental impairments and remanding for further proceedings consistent with Judge Sitarski's conclusions, June 29, 2010 Order (docket entry # 8, Exhibit 10 at 6);

(e) The prior Report also noted, because the ALJ had relied upon and applied "substantial weight" to the opinion of a state agency psychological consultant even though that consultant had not examined Rodriguez and was not aware of her medical history, id. at 22 and 23, the ALJ should order a consultative examination if additional medical records, referred to in the prior hearing, failed to provide sufficient clarification on remand regarding the plaintiff's medical history and treatment, id. at 25;

(f) On remand, the case was assigned to the same ALJ who again issued an unfavorable decision, R&R at 2;

(g) Pursuant to our remand order, the ALJ subpoenaed all available medical records from the Crisis Center treating Rodriguez because he found that the records presented in the first proceeding erroneously referred to a hospital visit in December, 2007 instead of the prior year, docket entry # 8, Exhibit 9 at 26;

(h) The ALJ found that the additional records obtained on remand provided sufficient clarification to support a decision on the claim without requiring a consultative examination, id., and, as to opinion evidence, he again gave significant weight only to the prior opinion of the non-consulting state agency psychologist, id. at 37;

(i) The ALJ issued a decision on April 28, 2011, concluding that based on her application for SSI filed on July 12, 2006, Rodriguez is not disabled, id. at 40, and the Appeals Council found no reason to set that decision aside, R&R at 3;

(j) Rodriguez argues that the ALJ erred in four ways:

(1) by relying on the opinion of the non-examining psychological consultant; (2) by rejecting a Residual Functional Capacity[2] (RFC) assessment completed by a social worker under the apparent approval of Rodriguez's treating physician; (3) by failing to order a consultative examination when the additional medical records failed to provide sufficient clarification; and (4) by failing to credit the testimony of Rodriguez's daughter concerning the plaintiff's frequent panic attacks, docket entry # 9 at 3-4;

(k) Judge Sitarski found that the ALJ's April 28, 2011 decision was supported by substantial ...


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