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Sebastian v. Astrue

January 8, 2009

TERRI SEBASTIAN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gregory G. Hollows U.S. Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act"). For the reasons that follow, plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED, the Commissioner's Cross Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED, and the Clerk is directed to enter judgment for the Commissioner. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, born January 30, 1957, applied on February 25, 2005 for disability benefits. (Tr. at 55.) Plaintiff alleged she was unable to work due to substance addiction/dependence disorders and depressive disorder. (Tr. at 37, 15.)

In a decision dated July 27, 2007, ALJ Peter F. Belli determined plaintiff was not disabled. The ALJ made the following findings:*fn1

1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 25, 2005, the application date (20 CFR 416.920(b) and 416.971 et seq.).

2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: depressive disorder with psychotic features and substance abuse disorder (20 CFR 416.920(c)).

3. The claimant's impairments, including the substance use disorder, meet section 12.09 of 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d)).

4. If the claimant stopped the substance use, the remaining limitations would cause more than a minimal impact on the claimant's ability to perform basic work activities; therefore, the claimant would continue to have a severe impairment or combination of impairments.

5. If the claimant stopped the substance use, the claimant would not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals any of the impairments listed in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d)).

6. If the claimant stopped the substance use, the claimant would have the residual functional capacity to perform work activity at all exertional levels that did not involve detailed decision-making.

7. If the claimant stopped the substance use, the claimant would be able to perform her past relevant work as a home health aide. This work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the residual functional capacity the claimant would have if she stopped the substance use (20 CFR 416.965).

8. Because the claimant would not be disabled if she stopped the substance use (20 CFR 416.920(f)), the claimant's substance use disorder is a contributing factor material to the determination of disability (20 CFR 416.935). Thus, the claimant has not been disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act at any time from the date the application was filed through the date of this decision.

(Tr. at 15-22.)

In summary, the ALJ found that plaintiff's substance abuse was not only severe but met the criteria for a listed impairment*fn2 and was a contributing factor material to any other finding that plaintiff is disabled.*fn3 If substance abuse were eliminated from the picture, the ALJ found that plaintiff's remaining mental ...


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