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Sheaffer v. Astrue

June 2, 2009

NAOMI LYNN SHEAFFER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jennifer T. Lum United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER PROCEEDINGS

On July 30, 2008, Naomi Lynn Sheaffer ("plaintiff") filed a Complaint seeking review of the Social Security Administration's denial of her application for Supplemental Security Income benefits. On August 13, 2008, Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security ("defendant"), filed a Consent to Proceed Before United States Magistrate Judge Jennifer T. Lum. On August 15, 2008, plaintiff filed a Consent to Proceed Before United States Magistrate Judge Jennifer T. Lum. Thereafter, on December 29, 2008, defendant filed an Answer to the Complaint. On April 29, 2009, the parties filed their Joint Stipulation.

The matter is now ready for decision.

BACKGROUND

On January 20, 2006, plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security Income benefits alleging a disability onset date of December 1, 2005. (Administrative Record ["AR"] at 65-67). The Commissioner denied plaintiff's application for benefits both initially and upon reconsideration. (AR at 42, 43). Thereafter, plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (AR at 55).

On January 31, 2008, the ALJ conducted a hearing in San Bernardino, California. (See AR at 19-41). Plaintiff appeared at the hearing with counsel and testified. (AR at 22-29, 36-37). Stephen M. Berry, a vocational expert (AR at 35-39), and Greg Vineyard, plaintiff's stepfather (AR at 29-35), also appeared at the hearing and testified. On March 13, 2008, the ALJ issued his decision denying benefits to plaintiff. (AR at 8-18). The ALJ determined that plaintiff had the following severe impairments: a seizure disorder v. dissociate phenomena and a bipolar disorder. (AR at 10-11). The ALJ found that plaintiff's conditions did not meet or equal any of the impairments contained in the Listing of Impairments (see 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1). The ALJ determined that plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to do a range of medium exertional work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(c).*fn1 (AR at 12). The ALJ found that plaintiff's residual functional capacity precluded plaintiff from engaging in her past relevant work as a fast food worker, but that other jobs existed in significant numbers in the national economy that plaintiff could perform. (AR at 17-18). Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not disabled through the date of the decision. (AR at 18). The Appeals Council denied plaintiff's timely request for review of the ALJ's decision. (AR at 1-3).

Thereafter, plaintiff appealed to the United States District Court.

PLAINTIFF'S CONTENTIONS

Plaintiff makes the following claims:

1. The ALJ failed to properly consider the opinion of Robert A. Moore, M.D., a consultative examiner, who opined that plaintiff should not work around moving machinery or operate a motor vehicle.

2. The ALJ failed to include the environmental restrictions assessed by Dr. Moore in the hypothetical he presented to the vocational expert.

3. The ALJ erred in his conclusion that plaintiff could perform the requirements of the job of laundry worker II.

4. The ALJ failed to properly consider plaintiff's Global Assessment of Functioning ("GAF") as assessed by Kari Enge, M.D., plaintiff's treating psychiatrist.

5. The ALJ failed to meet his duty to develop the record with regard to the precise definition of the word "moderate" as used by the ALJ in his ...


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