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Willis v. Astrue

February 4, 2009

ELIZABETH WILLIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Rosalyn M. Chapman United States Magistrate Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Elizabeth Willis filed a complaint on November 6, 2007, seeking review of the Commissioner's decision denying her application for disability benefits. The Commissioner answered the complaint on March 21, 2008, and the parties filed a joint stipulation on May 8, 2008.

BACKGROUND

I.

On July 12, 2005, plaintiff applied for disability benefits under the Supplemental Security Income program ("SSI") of Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 1382(a). Certified Administrative Record ("A.R.") 12. The plaintiff's application was initially denied,*fn1 and was denied again on March 22, 2006, following reconsideration. A.R. 37-48. The plaintiff then requested an administrative hearing, which was held before Administrative Law Judge Jay E. Levine ("the ALJ") on July 10, 2007. A.R. 27, 402-24. On July 24, 2007, the ALJ issued a decision finding plaintiff is not disabled. A.R. 9-20. The plaintiff appealed this decision to the Appeals Council, which denied review on August 31, 2007. A.R. 4-7.

II.

The plaintiff, who was born on March 15, 1953, is currently 55 years old. A.R. 72, 78. She has an eleventh-grade education and previously worked as a childcare provider. A.R. 103-10, 406-07. The plaintiff has both physical and mental complaints.

A. Physical Complaints

On September 30, 2003, Jagvinder Singh, M.D., an internist, examined plaintiff and diagnosed her with low back pain, atypical chest pain, and a history of neck pain, migraine headaches, and arthritis. A.R. 134-38. Dr. Singh found plaintiff had multiple subjective complaints and decreased range of motion of the dorsolumbar spine, which he attributed to plaintiff's poor effort. A.R. 138. Similarly, Dr. Singh determined that plaintiff "did very bad on Jamar handgrip strength but when I asked [her] to hold my hand and lean backward, . . . her handgrip strength [was] within normal limits."

Id. Dr. Singh concluded:

[plaintiff] is able to stand and walk for 6 hours. Sitting is no restriction. She does not require the use of assistive devices. She would be able to lift and carry occasionally and frequently . . . 50 & 25 pounds. Posturally and manipulatively, there are no restrictions. Environmentally, the [plaintiff] should avoid work at extremes of temperature and at heights.

Id.

On April 26, 2004, Concepcion A. Enriquez, M.D., an internist, examined plaintiff and concluded she has no impairment-related physical limitations. A.R. 167-71.

Between May 21, 2003, and June 4, 2007, plaintiff received treatment from Craig Mueller, M.D., and others at Family Practice Associates, where she was diagnosed with lumbar disc disease, peripheral neuropathy,*fn2 arteriosclerosis, left knee osteoarthritis, degenerative joint disease and anemia, among other conditions. A.R. 248-62, 284-338, 366-401. Cervical spine x-rays taken on September 17, 2004, demonstrated degenerative arthritic changes with disc space narrowing at C5-C6, and lumbar spine x-rays obtained the same day show degenerative arthritic ...


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