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Robinson v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 23, 2019

FRANCINE ROBINSON, Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security Administration, [1] Defendant.

          ORDER

          EDWARD G. SMITH, JUDGE

         AND NOW, this 23rd day of December, 2019, after considering the complaint (Doc. No. 3), the administrative record (Doc. No. 7), the answer (Doc. No. 8), the plaintiff's brief and statement of issues in support of her request for review (Doc. No. 9), the defendant's response to the plaintiff's request for review (Doc. No. 12), the plaintiff's reply to the defendant's response to the request for review (Doc. No. 14), the report and recommendation filed by the Honorable Linda K. Caracappa (Doc. No. 15), the defendant's objections to the report and recommendation (Doc. No. 16), and the plaintiff's response to the objections (Doc. No. 18), it is hereby ORDERED as follows:

         1. The clerk of court is DIRECTED to REMOVE this matter from civil suspense and RETURN it to the court's active docket;

         2. The defendant's objections to the report and recommendation (Doc. No. 16) are OVERRULED;[2]

         3. The report and recommendation (Doc. No. 15) is APPROVED and ADOPTED;

         4. The plaintiff's request for review is GRANTED IN PART;[3]

         5. The decision of the Commissioner of Social Security Administration is REVERSED to the extent the matter is REMANDED to the Commissioner pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further proceedings consistent with the report and recommendation (Doc. No. 15); and

         6. The clerk of court shall CLOSE this case.

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Notes:

[1] Andrew M. Saul was sworn in as the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration on June 17, 2019, for a six-year term that expires on January 19, 2025. See https://www.ssa.gov/agency/commissioner.html (last visited August 12, 2019). Pursuant to Rule 25(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the court has substituted Commissioner Saul as the defendant in this action.

[2] This court's review of the contested portion of the report and recommendation is plenary. The court “shall make a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is made.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) (emphasis added). “Review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, however, is limited to determining whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence.” Abney v. Colvin, Civ. A. No. 13-6818, 2015 WL 5113315, at *3 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 31, 2015) (citations omitted). “Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Zirnsak v. Colvin, 777 F.3d 607, 610 (3d Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).

In the objections, the defendant generally argues that the plaintiff failed to (1) allege any mental health impairment in her claims or (2) submit any “opinion from an acceptable medical source who concluded that she had severe medically determinable mental impairments that resulted in functional limitations[]” into the record. Def.'s Obj. to the Magistrate Judge's R&R (“Def.'s Objs.”) at 1, Doc. No. 16. The defendant raises three specific objections to the R&R relating to the general objections. First, the defendant maintains that Judge Caracappa improperly held that the governing legal standards require an ALJ to “cite to” certain “specific notations” in particular documents to demonstrate that she appropriately considered that evidence. Def.'s Objs. at 2. Second, the defendant objects to Judge Caracappa's findings pertaining to the ALJ's step two analysis. Defendant disagrees that (1) the court is unable to meaningfully review the ALJ's treatment of the plaintiff's mental health records because the ALJ failed to adequately discuss her consideration of them and (2) the ALJ's step two non-severity finding is not supported by substantial evidence. Id. at 5. Third, the defendant objects to Judge Caracappa's findings that (1) the ALJ erred by failing to mention the plaintiff's non-severe mental impairments in making the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) determination and (2) the RFC assessment is not supported by substantial evidence. Id. at 10. The court will address each of these specific objections in turn, but first the court will address the defendant's general objections.

First, when it comes to the defendant's general argument that the plaintiff failed to allege any mental health impairment in her claims, the court finds that plaintiff did not need to do so initially for these impairments to be considered. As the plaintiff correctly points out, “what Defendant neglects to mention is that it is absolutely the obligation of the ALJ to adjudicate each claim through the date of the decision, and this adjudication includes those impairments which are diagnosed or raised after the application was filed.” Pl.'s Resp. to Def, 's Obj. to the Magistrate Judge's R&R (“Pl.'s Resp. to Def.'s Objs.”) at 2, Doc. No. 18 (citing SSR 85-28, 1985 WL 56856 (Jan. 1, 1985); SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184 (July 2, 1996)). Second, the defendant contends that the plaintiff failed to submit any opinion from an acceptable medical source who concluded that she had severe medically determinable mental impairments that resulted in functional limitation. The court also finds that that this general objection is meritless ...


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