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Short v. Astrue

June 30, 2010

DEBRA SHORT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Marc L. Goldman United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff Debra Short ("Plaintiff") seeks judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision denying her applications for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income benefits ("SSI") pursuant to Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. For the reasons stated below, the Commissioner's decision is reversed, and this action should be remanded for further proceedings.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Plaintiff was born on October 29, 1962. (Administrative Record ("AR") at 72). She has a college degree and relevant work experience as a pharmacy technician. (AR at 15, 21).

Plaintiff filed applications for DIB and SSI in April 2007, alleging disability as of December 1, 2003, based on low back pain, leg pain, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. (AR at 72-86, 130-31). These applications were denied initially and on reconsideration. (AR at 8, 39-44, 47-51).

At Plaintiff's request, an administrative hearing was held on March 18, 2009, before Administrative Law Judge F. Keith Varni ("the ALJ"). Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, testified at the hearing. (AR at 17-31).

On June 29, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act. (AR at 8-16). The ALJ evaluated Plaintiff's claim of disability using the five-step sequential evaluation process for disability required under federal regulations. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. The ALJ found Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date of disability (step one), and Plaintiff suffers from the severe impairments of low back pain and obesity (step two), but these conditions did not meet the requirements of any impairment in the "Listings," 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (step three). (AR at 9, 12). With respect to Plaintiff's residual functional capacity, the ALJ found Plaintiff was capable of the following: lifting and carrying 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; standing, walking, and sitting six hours in an eight-hour workday; balancing, bending, stooping, crouching, and kneeling occasionally; climbing of ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes and scaffolds frequently; and crawling frequently. (AR at 12, 14-15). Based on this residual functional capacity, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work as a pharmacy technician (step four). (AR at 15).

Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. (AR at 15).

On August 21, 2009, the Appeals Council denied review and the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. (AR at 1-3). Plaintiff then commenced this action for judicial review.

The parties filed a Joint Stipulation of disputed issues on May 24, 2010. Plaintiff raises the following arguments:

1. The ALJ erred by failing to properly consider the opinions of Plaintiff's treating physicians. (Joint Stipulation 3-6, 11).

2. The ALJ erred by failing to properly consider the demands of Plaintiff's past work. (Joint Stipulation 12-14, 16-17).

3. The ALJ erred by failing to properly consider lay witness testimony. (Joint Stipulation 17-19, 21).

Plaintiff seeks remand for a payment of benefits or, in the alternative, remand for a new administrative hearing and further development of the record. (Joint Stipulation at 21-22). The Commissioner requests that the ALJ's Decision be affirmed. (Joint Stipulation at 22). The ...


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