The opinion of the court was delivered by: Judge Cathy Bissoon
For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 9) will be denied, and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. 11) will be granted.
Plaintiff Corena A. Brenizer ("Brenizer") protectively applied for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") benefits on October 27, 2009, alleging the existence of a statutory disability beginning on that date. (R. at 150, 152, 188). Pennsylvania's Bureau of Disability Determination denied the applications on February 11, 2010. (R. at 86, 90). Brenizer responded on March 29, 2010, by filing a timely request for an administrative hearing. (R. at 95-96). On April 4, 2011, a hearing was held in Seven Fields, Pennsylvania, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") John Kooser. (R. at 24). Brenizer, who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified at the hearing. (R. at 28-59).
Dr. Fred A. Monaco, an impartial vocational expert, also testified at the hearing. (R. at 59-67). In a decision dated May 27, 2011, the ALJ determined that Brenizer was not "disabled" within the meaning of the Social Security Act ("Act"). (R. at 7-20).
On July 25, 2011, Brenizer sought administrative review of the ALJ's decision by filing a request for review with the Appeals Council. (R. at 139). The Appeals Council denied the request for review on November 15, 2011, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") in this case. (R. at 1). Brenizer commenced this action on December 11, 2011, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. (Docs. 1 & 2). Brenizer and the Commissioner filed motions for summary judgment on April 12, 2012, and May 14, 2012, respectively. (Docs. 9 & 11). The parties' cross-motions for summary judgment are now ripe for adjudication.
Brenizer quit school in 2002, after completing the tenth grade. (R. at 197). For the next seven years, she worked as a "shampoo girl" for two beauty salons. (R. at 194). Her last day of work was in close proximity to her alleged onset date. (R. at 32, 193). Brenizer testified that she had left her job because of an inability to deal with the "everyday stresses" of employment.
At the second step of the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ determined that Brenizer was suffering from an adjustment disorder and an anxiety disorder. (R. at 12). These impairments were deemed to be "severe" under the Commissioner's regulations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 404.1520(c), 416.920(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(c). During the relevant period of time, Brenizer received treatment for her impairments at the Primary Health Network.
(R. at 232-240, 270-275). Terri Sharo ("Sharo"), a certified registered nurse practitioner ("CRNP"), served as Brenizer's treating mental health therapist. (R. at 232-240, 263-275).
Treatment notes provided by Sharo indicate that Brenizer was suffering from some degree of depression as early as October 17, 2008. (R. at 232). Two months later, Sharo described Brenizer's depressive symptoms as "minimal." (R. at 240). During the first half of 2009, Brenizer's depression was effectively controlled with medication. (R. at 237-239).
Her symptoms exacerbated later that year, when her boyfriend went to jail. (R. at 236).
On September 16, 2009, Sharo observed that Brenizer was feeling "overwhelmed" and "d[id] not like being alone." (R. at 236). Brenizer apparently stopped working on November 4, 2009.
(R. at 193). That same day, Sharo noted that Brenizer's mental impairments had caused her to miss "several ...