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Maloof v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

August 4, 2016

JOSEPH MALOOF, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          Joseph Maloof, Plaintiff, represented by Michael J. Kelley, Law Office of Michael J. Kelley.

          Carolyn W. Colvin, Defendant, represented by Michael P. Sady, United States Attorney's Office.

          Social Security Administration, Interested Party, represented by Thomas D. Ramsey, Office of the General Counsel.

          ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S MOTION TO REVERSE AND DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO AFFIRM

          LEO T. SOROKIN, District Judge.

         Plaintiff Joseph Arthur Maloof has filed a Motion to Reverse the decision by Defendant Carolyn Colvin, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("SSA"), to deny Plaintiff's application for Title II disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). Docs. 19, 20. Defendant has filed a Motion to Affirm the denial of benefits. Docs. 24, 25. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Motion is ALLOWED to the extent that it requests remand, and Defendant's Motion is DENIED.

         I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

         On March 19, 2012, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB. Administrative Record ("AR") at 69. Plaintiff originally alleged an onset date of disability ("AOD") of December 1, 2009, but later (on September 11, 2013) amended the AOD to January 1, 2012. See id. at 69, 158. Plaintiff, who served in the Army, claims he is disabled due to a variety of conditions, including, inter alia, post-traumatic stress disorder ("PTSD"), bipolar disorder, knee pain, and hepatitis C. Id . at 73. Plaintiff's application for DIB was denied initially and upon reconsideration. Id . at 78, 92.

         On September 11, 2013, a hearing was held, at Plaintiff's request, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") William Ramsey. Id . at 25, 104. Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified at the hearing, as did an impartial vocational expert. Id . at 25-50.

         On November 27, 2013, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff was not disabled from his AOD through the date of the decision. Id . at 11. In reaching the decision, the ALJ found, inter alia, that Plaintiff's mental impairments (1) limited him "to occasional social interaction with the public, co-workers and supervisors"; (2) imposed "moderate limitations in interacting with others"; and (3) imposed "moderate limitations in concentration and attention, " thus limiting Plaintiff to "simple routine tasks." Id . at 13-14.

         On December 27, 2013, Plaintiff filed a claim for "service connected compensation" with the Department of Veterans Affairs ("VA"). Doc. 20-1 at 2.

         On January 24, 2014, Plaintiff submitted a Request for Review of the ALJ's decision ("Request for Review") to the SSA's Appeals Council. AR at 7. The Request for Review instructed Plaintiff as follows:

If you have additional evidence[, ] submit it with this request for review[.] If you need additional time to submit evidence or legal argument, you must request an extension of time in writing now[.]... If you neither submit evidence or legal argument now nor within any extension of time the Appeals Council grants, the Appeals Council will take its action based on the evidence of record.

         Id. When Plaintiff submitted his Request for Review, he submitted one piece of additional evidence - his counsel's letter brief to the ALJ - and did not request an extension of time to submit more evidence. See id. at 5.

         On May 16, 2014, the VA issued a decision ("VA rating decision") assigning Plaintiff a 100 percent disability rating as of April 27, 2012, based on Plaintiff's "bipolar depression with anxiety (claimed originally as posttraumatic stress disorder)." Doc. 20-1 at 9. In reaching that decision, the VA found Plaintiff's mental ...


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