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Coy v. Astrue

July 8, 2009


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


I. Introduction

Plaintiff Doris Coy ("Coy" or "plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3), which incorporates 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner" or "defendant") denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433, 1381-1383f. Consistent with the customary practice in the Western District of Pennsylvania, the parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment based on the record developed during the administrative proceedings. (Doc. Nos. 12 & 14).

After careful consideration of the Commissioner's decision, the memoranda of the parties, and the evidence contained in the record, the Court finds that the decision of the Commissioner is "supported by substantial evidence" within the meaning of § 405(g). Therefore, the Court will deny plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and grant the defendant's motion for summary judgment. The ALJ's decision will be affirmed, and the Court will enter an order directing that this case be closed.

II. Procedural History

Plaintiff protectively filed an application for DIB and for SSI on June 28, 2006, alleging disability as of August 20, 2005, resulting from chronic pain, neuropathy, bladder tumor, memory loss, and lack of mobility in her back. (R. 40-44, 54, 348-53). Plaintiff's claims were denied on initial review, and plaintiff requested a hearing. (R. 30-31, 32-33). A hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") on July 9, 2007, during which claimant was represented by counsel and appeared and testified. (R. 362-87). An impartial vocational expert ("VE") was also present and gave testimony. Id . By decision dated July 20, 2007, the ALJ denied plaintiff's claims. (R.10-23).

On July 20, 2007, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision regarding plaintiff's claims, finding that plaintiff was able to perform a range of sedentary work and that jobs suitable for plaintiff, considering her impairments, existed in the national economy.*fn1 (R. 10-23). The ALJ concluded, therefore, that plaintiff was not disabled under the Act.*fn2 Id .

On September 5, 2008, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. 5-7). Plaintiff subsequently commenced this action against the Commissioner, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. Plaintiff and the Commissioner filed cross-motions for summary judgment (Doc. Nos. 12 & 14) which are the subject of this memorandum opinion.

III. Statement of the Case

In his decision, the ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2007*fn3 .

2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 20, 2005, the alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(b), 404.1571 et seq. , 416.920(b) and 416.971 et seq. ).

3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: Degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine with scoliosis, spondylolysis and lumbar facet syndrome, peripheral neuropathy, history of an old T12 compression fracture, headaches, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, residuals of Grade II transitional cell bladder carcinoma, bipolar II disorder, depression, generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder without agoraphobia and anxiety (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c).

4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).

5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work except she is limited to occasional postural maneuvers such as balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling and climbing ramps and stairs, must avoid climbing ladders, ropes and scaffolds, must be afforded the option to sit and stand for one to two minutes every hour or so during the work day, must avoid pushing and pulling with the right lower extremity to include the operation of pedals, must avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gases, chemical irritants, environments with poor ventilation, cold temperature extremes, extreme dampness and humidity, is limited to occupations which do not require exposure to dangerous machinery and unprotected heights, is limited to occupations which can be performed wearing an incontinence protection pad, is limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks, not performed in a fast-paced production environment, involving only simple, work-related decisions and, in general, relatively few work place changes with no more than occasional interaction with co-workers, supervisors and the general public.

6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 C.F.R. 404.1565 and 416.965).

7. The claimant was born on January 23, 1968, and was 37 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on the alleged disability onset date (20 C.F.R. 404.1563 and 416.963).

8. The claimant has a limited education and is able to communicate in English (20 C.F.R. 404.1564 and 416.964).

9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is "not disabled," whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).

10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 C.F.R. 404.1560(c), 404.1566, 416.960(c), and 416.966).

11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from August 20, 2005 through the date of this decision (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).

(R. 15-23).

IV. Standards of Review

Judicial review of the Commissioner's final decisions on disability claims is provided by statute. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g)*fn4 and 1383(c)(3)*fn5 . Section 405(g) permits a District Court to review transcripts and records upon which a determination of the Commissioner is based. Because the standards for eligibility under Title II (42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433, regarding Disability Insurance Benefits, or "DIB"), and judicial review thereof, are virtually identical to the standards under Title XVI (42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383f, regarding Supplemental Security Income, or "SSI"), regulations and decisions rendered under the Title II disability standard, 42 U.S.C. § 423, are pertinent and ...

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