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Caserta v. Astrue

October 19, 2009

AMY CASERTA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Amy Caserta ("Caserta" 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 supplemental security income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383(f). 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. 8 & 10).

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 Section 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 SSI on August 12, 2002, alleging disability as of August 16, 2001, resulting from asthma, arthritis, and depression. (R. 105, 172). Plaintiff's claims were denied on initial review, and plaintiff requested a hearing. (R. 72-75, 76). A hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Michael F. Colligan on December 18, 2003, during which claimant was represented by counsel and appeared and testified. (R. 34-56). An impartial vocational expert ("VE") was also present and gave testimony. Id . By decision dated March 26, 2004, the ALJ denied 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.12-19). The ALJ concluded, therefore, that plaintiff was not disabled under the Act.*fn2 ( Id .).

On April 8, 2004, plaintiff filed a Request for Review with the Appeals Council, which was denied, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. 411-12, 6-7). Plaintiff then filed an appeal with this Court on October 25, 2005, and, on March 30, 2006, the undersigned granted plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and remanded the case to the Commissioner for further administrative proceedings. (R. 454, 455-71).

The ALJ conducted a hearing on August 16, 2006, during which plaintiff, again represented by counsel, appeared and gave testimony. (R. 591-614). A VE likewise was present and testified. ( Id. ). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on May 23, 2007, finding that work exists in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff is capable of performing despite her limitations, and therefore she is not disabled according to the Act. (R. 430-44). On March 10, 2009, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. 422-24).

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. 8 & 10) 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 has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 16, 2001, the alleged onset date, or at any time relevant to this decision (20 C.F.R. 416.920(b) and 416.971 et seq. ).

2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, degenerative disc disease, arthritis, depressive disorder, and anxiety disorder (20 C.F.R. 416.920(c).

3. 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. 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).

4. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary exertional work that allows the claimant to sit and stand every 10-20 minutes, and that does not involve repetitive bending, the use of foot and pedal controls, and that requires only simple routine repetitive tasks, performed in a low stress work environment that does not involve more than minimal contact with the general public, or exposure to temperature extremes, dust, fumes, or odors.

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

6. The claimant was born on November 11, 1963, and [was 43 years old when the ALJ's decision was issued]. At all times relevant to this decision, the claimant is considered to be a younger individual within the meaning of the Regulations (20 C.F.R. 416.963).

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

8. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability in this case (See SSR 82-41 and 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).

9. 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. 416.960(c), and 416.966).

10. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since August 12, 2002, the application date, or at any time through the date of this decision (20 C.F.R. 416.920(g)).

(R. 430-44).

IV. Standards of ...


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