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Lattyak v. Astrue

October 28, 2009


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge



I. Introduction

Plaintiff, Michael W. Lattyak, brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) of the Social Security Act, seeking review of the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") and Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). Consistent with the customary practice in the Western District of Pennsylvania, the parties have submitted cross motions for summary judgment on the record developed at the administrative proceedings. After careful consideration of the Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") Decision, the memoranda of the parties, and the entire record, the Court will grant the Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment and deny Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment.

II. Procedural History

On June 8, 2007, Plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI alleging disability since May 31, 2007 due to multiple sclerosis. R. 120-123, 142, 147.*fn1 For the purposes of his DIB claim, Plaintiff's date last insured was December 31, 2011, meaning that he had to establish he was disabled on or before that date in order to be entitled to a period of disability and DIB. R. 16. After his initial claim was denied on September 19, 2007, Plaintiff timely requested a hearing on October 11, 2007. R. 95. The hearing was held before ALJ Mattie Harvin-Woode on September 30, 2008, at which Plaintiff testified along with a vocational expert (VE). R. 31-74.

On November 21, 2008, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim, finding Plaintiff not disabled. The ALJ also found that Plaintiff could perform work at the sedentary level. After the denial, Plaintiff requested a review of the ALJ's decision. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's Request for Review on January 21, 2009, and the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. Plaintiff then filed his complaint seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision.

III. Statement of the Case

The ALJ found that the record supported a finding of a severe impairment of multiple sclerosis. R. 18. The ALJ examined Plaintiff's medical records relating to his physical and mental capabilities and discussed portions of Plaintiff's testimony where he described his daily activities. R. 18-23. The ALJ found that the objective evidence of record could not support a finding that Plaintiff's depression was severe or that he met listing 12.04 for Affective Disorders.

R. 18. Although Plaintiff testified that he had problems with concentration and focus, Plaintiff's mental status examinations were normal. He further testified to being involved in a leadership position with Narcotics Anonymous and in bible study. R. 19, 56-58. Furthermore, Plaintiff testified to assisting in childcare duties and managing finances. Id.

In addition, the ALJ discounted the opinion of Dr. Asim Roy that Plaintiff met listing 11.09 for Multiple Sclerosis and was therefore disabled. R. 20-21, 21-23. She found that "the claimant's medically determinable impairments could reasonably be expected to cause the alleged symptoms; however, the claimant's statements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of these symptoms are not credible...." R. 22. The ALJ noted that Plaintiff maintained the ability to drive, shop, perform self-care, and do light housework. R. 22. Physical examinations performed by Plaintiff's treating physicians were normal. R. 23. Dr. Matthews noted that Plaintiff could not return to his prior work as a mechanic, but instead wanted vocational retraining for other work. R. 23. The ALJ also gave some weight to the opinion of the consultative examiner, Dr. Mitchell Felder, who found that Plaintiff was capable of light work with some additional limitations. Id.

The ALJ made the following specific findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2011.

2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 31, 2007, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq.).

3. The claimant has the following severe impairment: multiple sclerosis (20 CFR 404.1521 et seq. and 416.921 et seq.).

4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1525, 404.1526, 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 as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except that the claimant must be able to sit or stand as needed; he can only occasionally perform pushing and pulling, climbing, balancing, kneeling, crawling, stooping, crouching, or bending; he cannot work around unprotected heights or moving machinery; and he cannot be exposed to extreme humidity or temperatures.

6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404. 1565 and 416.956).

7. The claimant was born on June 21, 1970 and was 37 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963).

8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 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 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).

10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that he claimant can perform. (20 CFR 404.1569, 404.1569a, 404.1569, 416.969a).

11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from May 31, 2007 through the date of the decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)).

R. 18-25.

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)*fn2 and 1383(c)(3)*fn3. 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 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 applicable in Title ...

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