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Toni A. Dupree v. Michael J. Astrue

February 10, 2011

TONI A. DUPREE, 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 May 14, 2010, plaintiff Toni Dupree ("Plaintiff") filed a complaint against defendant Michael J. Astrue ("Defendant"), the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, seeking review of a denial of disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income benefits ("SSI"). [Docket No. 3.] On November 10, 2010, Defendant filed his answer, along with a certified copy of the administrative record. [Docket Nos. 11, 12, 13.]

Both Plaintiff and Defendant consented to proceed for all purposes before the Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). [Docket Nos. 8, 9.]

Pursuant to a May 10, 2010 case management order, the parties submitted a 9-page joint stipulation for decision on January 10, 2011. deems the matter suitable for adjudication without oral argument.

In sum, having carefully studied, inter alia, the parties' joint stipulation and the administrative record, the Court concludes that, as detailed below, the decision of the Appeals Council is supported by substantial evidence. Thus, the Court affirms the Commissioner's decision denying benefits.

II.

PERTINENT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND Plaintiff, who was 46 years of age on the date of her administrative hearing, has completed high school. (See Administrative Record ("AR") at 10, 44, 47, 174.) Her past relevant work includes employment as a child daycare center worker. (Id. at 59-60.)

Plaintiff protectively filed for DIB and SSI on June 7, 2006, alleging that she has been disabled since June 1, 2006 due to depression and physical ailments. (AR at 67, 174-78, 179-85, 200, 204.) Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration, after which she filed a timely request for a hearing. (Id. at 28, 65, 66, 67-71, 76.)

On March 25, 2008, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before an ALJ. (AR at 44, 46-58, 62-63.) The ALJ also heard testimony from Heidi Paul, a vocational expert ("VE"). (Id. at 59-62.)

On April 21, 2008, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's request for benefits. (AR at 28-34.) 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 her alleged onset date of disability. (Id. at 30.)

At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffers from severe impairments consisting of "obesity, low back pain, hypertension, and depression." (AR at 31 (emphasis omitted).)

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.1/ (AR at 31.)

The ALJ then assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity2/ ("RFC") and determined that she is limited to light work. (AR at 32.) The ALJ also found that Plaintiff "can push, pull, lift and carry without limitations," and "[c]limbing, balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling can be performed occasionally." (Id. (emphasis omitted).) Further, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff "is able to perform simple repetitive tasks" and "complet[e] a normal workday and to relate [and] interact with co-workers, supervisors and the public." (Id. (emphasis omitted).)

Although not explicitly stated in his RFC finding, the ALJ also indicated that Plaintiff "has moderate difficulties" in social functioning and "[w]ith regard to concentration, persistence or pace." (AR at 31.)

The ALJ found, at step four, that Plaintiff retained the ability to perform her past relevant work as a child daycare center worker. (AR at 33.) Thus, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not suffering from ...


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