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Alston v. Astrue

January 23, 2009

SHAWNTE ALSTON, 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 his 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 April 10, 1984, applied on June 4, 2004 for disability benefits. (Tr. at 73-76.) Plaintiff alleged he was unable to work due to schizophrenia and mental problems. (Tr. at 48.)

In a decision dated June 7, 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 the alleged onset of disability.

2. The claimant has an impairment or a combination of impairments considered "severe" based on the requirements in the Regulations 20 CFR § 416.920(b).

3. The claimant's impairments meet the requirements of Listing 12.09, based on 12.04, Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulation No. 4.

4. The undersigned finds the claimant's allegations regarding his limitations are not totally credible for the reasons set forth in the body of the decision. The testimony of the witness is inconsistent with the medical record as described above.

5. The undersigned has carefully considered all of the medical opinions in the record regarding the severity of the claimant's impairments (20 CFR § 416.927).

6. If the claimant were not abusing drugs, his mental impairments would be non-severe.

7. The claimant's medically determinable impairments, other than methamphetamine abuse, are not severe. He does not have any impairment or impairments which, either singly or in combination, significantly limits his ability to perform basic work-related activities, nor does he have an impairment which constitutes more than a slight abnormality or slight limitation of function (20 CFR 416.921).

8. If the claimant were abstinent from drugs, he would not be under a "disability" as defined in the Social Security Act (20 CFR § 416.920(c). Thus, drug abuse is a factor material to the finding of disability. Therefore, the claimant is not eligible for Supplemental Security Income payments (20 CFR 416.935).

(Tr. at 21-22.)

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 ...


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