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Gilbert Carrasco v. Michael J. Astrue

February 8, 2011

GILBERT CARRASCO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Jay C. Gandhi United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I.

INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY On January 19, 2010, plaintiff Gilbert Carrasco ("Plaintiff") filed a complaint against defendant Michael J. Astrue ("Defendant" or "Commissioner"), seeking review of a denial of disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income benefits ("SSI"). [Docket No. 3.]

On March 22, 2010, Defendant filed his answer, along with a certified copy of the administrative record. [Docket Nos. 10, 11, 12.]

On April 14, 2010, this matter was transferred to the calendar of the undersigned Magistrate Judge. [Docket No. 13.] Both Plaintiff and Defendant subsequently consented to proceed for all purposes before the Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). [Docket Nos. 14, 16.]

Pursuant to a January 20, 2010 order regarding further proceedings, Plaintiff submitted a brief in support of his complaint ("Plaintiff's Brief") on April 20, 2010. [Docket No. 15.] On May 20, 2010, Defendant submitted his opposition brief ("Defendant's Brief"). [Docket No. 19.] The Court deems the matter suitable for adjudication without oral argument.

In sum, having carefully studied, inter alia, the parties' written submissions and the administrative record, the Court concludes that, as detailed below, the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") is free of legal error and is supported by substantial evidence. Thus, the Court affirms the Commissioner's decision denying benefits.

II.

PERTINENT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND Plaintiff, who was 27 years of age on the date of his first administrative hearing, has completed the eleventh grade. (Administrative Record ("AR") at 71, 86, 307, 310.) His past relevant work includes employment as an unloader, janitor, and gardener. (Id. at 18, 336, 393.)

Plaintiff protectively filed for DIB and SSI on June 10, 2005, alleging that he has been disabled since April 1, 2005 due to paranoid schizophrenia, depression, and vision problems. (AR at 42, 50, 71-73, 76, 299-304.) Plaintiff's applications, were denied initially and upon reconsideration, after which he filed a timely request for a hearing. (Id. at 39, 42-46, 50-54, 305, 306.)

On May 3, 2007, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before an ALJ. (AR at 307, 309-23.) On May 14, 2007, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's request for benefits ("May 2007 Decision"). (Id. at 12-18.)

Plaintiff appealed the May 2007 Decision, which was denied by the Appeals Council. (AR at 4-6, 7.) Plaintiff then sought review in this Court, Case No. ED CV 08-0392 CT, seeking review of the Commissioner's decision denying his applications. (See id. at 350-51.) On August 6, 2008, the Court remanded the case for further proceedings and directed the ALJ to properly consider the opinions of Plaintiff's examining and treating physicians. (Id. at 350-60 ("Court's Remand Order").) On October 14, 2008, the Appeals Council issued an order remanding the action to the ALJ. (Id. at 349.)

On July 6, 2009, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a second hearing before the ALJ. (AR at 378, 380-92.) Troy Scott, a vocational expert ("VE") also testified. (Id. at 392-95.)

On October 20, 2009, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's request for benefits. (ARat 327-38.) Applying the well-known five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found, at step one, that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of disability. (Id. at 329.)

At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffers from severe impairments of polysubstance abuse and substance-induced schizoaffective disorder. (ARat 329.)

At step three, the ALJ determined that the evidence does not demonstrate that Plaintiff's impairment, either individually or in combination, meet or medically equal the severity of any listing set forth in the Social Security regulations.*fn1 (AR at 330.)

The ALJ then assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity*fn2 ("RFC") and determined that he can "perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following non-exertional limitations: routine, repetitive entry level, minimally stressful work; no contact with the general public and only superficial interpersonal contact with co-workers and supervisors." (AR at 330 (emphasis omitted).)

Based on Plaintiff's RFC and the VE's testimony, the ALJ found, at step four, that Plaintiff has the ability to perform his past relevant work as an unloader or gardener's helper. (AR at 336.) The ALJ further determined that "in addition to these jobs, . . . [Plaintiff] could do other jobs[,]" including general laborer, packager, or dishwasher. (Id. at 336-37.) Thus, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not suffering from a disability as defined by the Act. (Id. at 327, 338.)

Plaintiff did not file a request for review by the Appeals Council of the ALJ's decision. (Pl.'s Br. at 2; Def.'s Br. at 2.) The ALJ's decision stands as ...


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