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Keokham v. Astrue

September 9, 2008

PHOUK KEOKHAM, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



ORDER

Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income and Disability Insurance Benefits under Title XVI and Title II, respectively, of the Social Security Act ("Act"). For the reasons that follow, plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is denied, and the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment is granted. The Clerk is directed to enter judgment for the Commissioner.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, born November 10, 1954, applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income on December 18, 2000, alleging disability since July 12, 2000, due to lower back and knee injuries. Administrative Record ("AR") 65, 98-99, 302. In a decision dated June 25, 2002, administrative law judge ("ALJ") Daniel G. Heely found that plaintiff had severe impairments including depression, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and obesity, but that she was not disabled.*fn1 AR 315-22. Plaintiff sought review before the Appeals Council and on September 24, 2003, the Appeals Council vacated the decision and remanded the claim for further consideration of medical opinions in the record and plaintiff's residual functional capacity, and to obtain evidence from a medical expert regarding the severity of plaintiff's impairments. The Appeals Council also ordered the ALJ to obtain evidence from a vocational expert to clarify the effect of plaintiff's limitations on her occupational base. AR 330-32.

A new hearing was held before the same ALJ on June 23, 2004. He issued a new decision September 20, 2004, again finding that plaintiff was not disabled. AR 420-28. The Appeals Council vacated that decision and remanded the claim to a different ALJ. AR 430-31. The new ALJ was directed to evaluate plaintiff's mental impairment in accordance with the special technique set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520a. Id. The remand order also directed the ALJ to give further consideration to plaintiff's maximum residual functional capacity in light of examining source opinions in the record, and if needed, to obtain supplemental evidence from a vocational expert. AR 431.

A third hearing was held on March 7, 2006, before ALJ William C. Thompson, Jr. Plaintiff appeared with an attorney, and a vocational expert testified. AR 538-61. In a decision dated August 10, 2006, the ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled. AR 19-29.

Specifically, the ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant filed applications for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits on December 18, 2000, alleging disability beginning on July 12, 2000.

2. The claimant is 51 years old. She has a minimal educational background and past work as an electronics assembler and receiving clerk.

3. The claimant met the special earnings requirements for benefits based on disability under Title II of the Social Security Act at the time of her alleged "disability" onset and continued to meet those requirements through at least December 31, 2005.

4. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 12, 2000.

5. The claimant has the following medically determinable impairments: diabetes, obesity and depression. The claimant's medically determinable impairments significantly limit her ability to perform basic work activities.

6. It has not been established that the claimant has any impairment or impairments that meet or equal the criteria set forth in any applicable section of the Listing of Impairments found at 20 CFR, Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix I.

7. The claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a wide range of light work, with the ability to sit 6 hours out of an 8 hour day, stand 6 hours out of an 8 hour day, and walk 6 hours out of an 8 hour day. She can bend and stoop on an occasional basis.

8. The claimant is capable of performing her past relevant work as an electronics assembler.

9. The claimant's subjective statements regarding pain and other symptoms have been carefully considered, but to the extent that those statements constitute an allegation that the claimant has been precluded from engaging in all substantial gainful activity by a medically determinable impairment or impairments for a period of time which has lasted or can reasonably be expected to last for 12 continuous months, they are not found credible in light of the medical evidence and the claimant's statements and conduct, as discussed more fully in my decision.

10. The claimant was not under a "disability" within the meaning of the Social Security Act, as amended, at any time on or ...


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