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Laura Lee Sharp v. Michael J. Astrue

September 16, 2011

LAURA LEE SHARP, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Laura Lee Sharp ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), for judicial review of the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") which denied her application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433, 1381 - 1383f ("Act").

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed DIB and SSI applications on February 16, 2007, in which she alleged a disability onset date of February 1, 2006 due to a major depressive disorder and degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine.*fn1 On June 19, 2007, Plaintiff's applictaions were initially denied. Thereafter, an administrative hearing was held on September 23, 2008, before Administrative Law Judge Richard D. Brady ("ALJ"). Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified at the hearing. Larry Ostrowski, an impartial vocational expert ("VE"), also testified at the hearing.

On October 31, 2008, the ALJ rendered a partially-favorable decision, in which he found that Plaintiff was disabled from February 1, 2006 until June 5, 2008, but also found that Plaintiff had medically improved from her previous disabled condition to the extent that as of June 6, 2008, she could perform light and sedentary work with limitations. The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on May 21, 2010, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.

On July 12, 2010, Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this Court in which she seeks judicial review of the ALJ's decision. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff contends that the ALJ's decision is not supported by the record. The Commissioner contends that substantial evidence supports the decision of the ALJ which found that Plaintiff was entitled to a closed period of benefits only. For the reasons that follow, the Court agrees with the Commissioner and will therefore grant the motion for summary judgment filed by the Commissioner and deny the motion for summary judgment filed by Plaintiff.

III. STATEMENT OF THE CASE

A. General Background

Plaintiff was born on August 16, 1969, and was thirty nine years of age at the time of her administrative hearing. (R. at 32). Plaintiff has an Associate's Degree in accounting and computers from the West Virginia Career Institute in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. (R. at 32, 50). Plaintiff last worked a regular, full time job in December 2005 as a Wal-Mart cashier and sales clerk. In May 2006, she worked as a telemarketer, but quit after two weeks. (R. at 34 -- 36).

The VE classified Plaintiff's past work as a cashier as light and semi-skilled and the sales clerk position as light and unskilled.

At the time of the administrative hearing, Plaintiff resided with her paraplegic, wheelchair-bound husband, and three sons, ages four, seven, and twelve. (R. at 33).

The parties do not dispute that from February 1, 2006 (her disability onset date) to February 2008, Plaintiff's depression was disabling. Likewise, there is no dispute that from February 1, 2006 until June 5, 2008, Plaintiff's back and neck problems were disabling. However, the ALJ found that the medical evidence of record reflects that by the beginning of January 2008, Plaintiff began reporting that she was having no depressive effects, behavior or episodes and that as of June 6, 2008, her physical limitations had improved to the point that she was no longer disabled.

Because there is no dispute that Plaintiff was disabled from February 1, 2006 through June 5, 2008, the Court will not address the medical evidence from that period, except as a comparison to the evidence from the time period when the ALJ found ...


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