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Wanda Joyce Church v. Astrue

November 5, 2009

WANDA JOYCE CHURCH, 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*fn1 is GRANTED, and the Clerk is directed to enter judgment for the Commissioner.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, born September 2, 1958, applied on April 21, 2005 for supplemental security income, alleging disability beginning on June 1, 2001.*fn2 Tr. at 16. However, as noted by the ALJ, the current application contains medical records starting in 2005, the date of her application. Tr. at 31. As a result, the ALJ focused on the time period starting in 2005. Id. Plaintiff was in a car accident in 1995 that resulted in neck surgery. Tr. at 366. Plaintiff states that she suffers from a variety of physical and mental ailments including neck, hip and back problems, high blood pressure, bipolar disorder and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment at 2.

In a decision dated November 14, 2007, ALJ L. Kalei Fong determined plaintiff was not disabled. The ALJ made the following findings:*fn3

1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since April 21, 2005, the application date (20 CFR 416.920(b) and 416.971 et seq.).

2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine and status post cervical fusion with related degenerative joint disease of the left hip at the graft site (20 CFR 416.920(c)).

3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926).

4. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform the full range of sedentary work. The claimant must be given the opportunity to use a cane for prolonged ambulation or for walking over uneven terrain. Sedentary work involves lifting no more than 10 pounds at a time occasionally lifting or carrying articles like docket filed, ledgers, and small tools. Jobs are sedentary if walking and standing are required occasionally and the other sedentary criteria are met (20 CFR 416.967).

5. The claimant is capable of performing past relevant work as a convenience store shift manager. This work does not require the performance of work-related activities precluded by the claimant's residual functional capacity (20 CFR 416.965).

6. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act since April 21, 2005, (20 CFR 416.920(f)), the date the application was filed.

Tr. at 19, 21-22, 26.

ISSUES PRESENTED

Plaintiff has raised the following issues: A. Whether the ALJ failed to properly consider the opinions of the treating sources concerning plaintiff's mood disorder and physical limitations; and B. Whether the ALJ failed to develop the record with mental health treatment records referenced by a treating doctor.

LEGAL ...


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