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Amin v. Astrue

June 9, 2010

DINA AMIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: VICTOR B. Kenton United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

(Social Security Case)

This matter is before the Court for review of the decision by the Commissioner of Social Security denying Plaintiff's application for disability benefits. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §636(c), the parties have consented that the case may be handled by the Magistrate Judge. The action arises under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), which authorizes the Court to enter judgment upon the pleadings and transcript of the record before the Commissioner. The parties have filed the Joint Stipulation ("JS"), and the Commissioner has filed the certified Administrative Record ("AR").

Plaintiff raises the following issues:

1. Whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly determined Plaintiff capable of performing past relevant work as a medical biller and administrative assistant; and

2. Whether the ALJ properly considered the treating doctor's opinion regarding Plaintiff's inability to work in accord with the District Court's remand instructions.

(JS at 3.)

This Memorandum Opinion will constitute the Court's findings of fact and conclusions of law. After reviewing the matter, the Court concludes that the decision of the Commissioner must be affirmed.

I. THE ALJ CORRECTLY DETERMINED THAT PLAINTIFF IS CAPABLE OF PERFORMING HER PAST RELEVANT WORK

The ALJ assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC") as enabling performance of light work, generally. Plaintiff is precluded from heavy work with sitting for up to six hours in an eight-hour day and standing up to six hours in an eight-hour day but no standing in excess of three hours at one time; no repetitive pushing, pulling and twisting with the upper extremities; and no overhead or over-the-shoulder work. (AR 331.) Plaintiff does not challenge the correctness of the ALJ's RFC determination.

Relying on the testimony of the vocational expert ("VE") at the hearing (AR 499-500), the ALJ determined as Step Four of the sequential evaluation process that Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work ("PRW") as a medical biller, and also as an administrative assistant. The ALJ identified the job of medical biller under the Dictionary of Occupational Titles ("DOT") as sedentary skilled work.*fn1

The job of medical biller under the DOT classification is determined as sedentary. (See, infra.)*fn2 Plaintiff contends that the medical biller job requires frequent handling and reaching, and thus conflicts with the RFC assessment which precludes Plaintiff from "repetitive pushing, pulling, or twisting." This argument, however, is dependent upon the generic definition of sedentary work which includes an ability to frequently lift, carry, push, pull, or otherwise move objects. (See JS at 4.) The fatal flaw in this argument, however, is that such requirements are not articulated in the job description of DOT 214.382-014. Thus, there is no deviation between the DOT description and Plaintiff's RFC. Because sedentary work may generally incorporate certain exertional requirements, it does follow that a particular job identified as sedentary implicates all of those requirements. Rather, the particular requirements of an identified job must be examined, and here, that leads to the conclusion that this job does not impose exertional requirements beyond Plaintiff's assessed RFC.

20 C.F.R. §§404.1520(f) identifies the expression "past relevant work" as an operative concept at the fourth step of the sequential evaluation process. The definition of PRW is set forth in §404.1560(b)(1), as, "... work that you have done within the past 15 years,..." Further assistance is provided in Social Security Rulings ("SSR") 82-61 and 82-62. While Social Security Rulings do not carry the force and effect of law, they are relevant to construe the Social Security Administration's interpretation of its own regulations and the statutes which it is empowered to administer. Under SSR 82-61, three possible alternative tests are set forth for determining whether or not a claimant retains the capacity to perform his or her PRW. The first is described as,

"Whether the claimant retains the capacity to perform a past relevant job based on a broad generic, occupational classification of that job, e.g., ...


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