Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Patricia Cotner v. Commissioner of the Social Security Administration

March 11, 2011

PATRICIA COTNER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying plaintiff's applications for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI, respectively, of the Social Security Act ("Act").*fn1 (Dkt. No. 19.) The Commissioner filed an opposition to plaintiff's motion and a cross-motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 20.) For the reasons that follow, the court grants plaintiff's motion for summary judgment or remand, denies the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment, and remands the case under sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further proceedings.

I. BACKGROUND*fn2

Plaintiff was 42 years old on the alleged disability onset date,*fn3 and was 54 years old on the date that the ALJ entered his decision denying plaintiff's application. (See Administrative Transcript ("AT") 44.) Plaintiff attended high school through the twelfth grade. (AT 44.) Plaintiff previously worked as a pizza parlor supervisor and cashier. (AT 43.) Plaintiff alleges she is disabled due to surgery on her right shoulder and a herniated disc in her neck. (AT 193.)

A. Procedural Background

In a decision dated July 23, 2003, the ALJ denied plaintiff's application. (AT 93- 104.) The Appeals Council remanded the case for a new decision. (AT 141-42.) A second hearing was held before ALJ William Thompson on November 29, 2005.*fn4 (AT 81-90.) In a decision dated September 16, 2006, the ALJ again denied plaintiff's application. (AT 23-45.) As discussed below, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was able to perform jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy and that plaintiff has not been under a disability at any time through December 31, 1996, and at any time from August 8, 2001, through the date of the ALJ's decision. (AT 44.) The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review. (AT 11-14.)

Plaintiff subsequently filed this action. Plaintiff contends the ALJ failed to properly evaluate and credit the medical evidence, improperly discredited plaintiff,*fn5 and relied on an incomplete hypothetical posed to the vocational expert in finding plaintiff not disabled. Plaintiff's contention that the ALJ improperly disregarded record medical opinions is dispositive and requires remand of this action for further proceedings.

B. Summary of the ALJ's Findings

The ALJ conducted the required five-step, sequential evaluation and concluded that plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act.*fn6 At step one, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since October 14, 1994, the alleged date of onset. (AT 43.) At step two, the ALJ concluded that, prior to December 31, 1996,*fn7 plaintiff had the "severe" impairments of "degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine and status post right shoulder surgery" and that as of August 1, 2001,*fn8 plaintiff had the "severe" impairments of "degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine, status post decompression and fusion at C5-6 and C6-7, and status post right shoulder surgery." (AT 27, 43.) At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff's did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled any impairment listed in the applicable regulations at any time during the relevant time periods. The ALJ specifically addressed whether plaintiff meets or medically equals Listings 1.02 or 1.04 (AT 27-28, 36-37.)

The ALJ next assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC"). The ALJ found that:

The claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform the physical exertion and non-exertional requirements of work, except: she can lift and carry up to twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; she can stand/walk up to six hours in an eight-hour workday; she cannot climb ropes or scaffolding; she cannot perform overhead reaching; she must avoid unprotected heights and vibrations.

(AT 33,41.)*fn9 In making such a finding, the ALJ gave little weight to plaintiff's testimony regarding her physical limitations as to the period at issue for DIB and found plaintiff not credible as to the period at issue for SSI. (AT 32, 40.)

At step four, the ALJ found that plaintiff can perform her past relevant work as a pizza parlor supervisor and cashier. (AT 33, 42.) In the alternative, at step five, relying on the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ found plaintiff could perform work as a fast food worker, cashier, and parking lot attendant, and that these jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy. (AT 34, 42-43.) Accordingly, the ALJ found plaintiff had not been under a disability from October 14, 1994, through December 31 1996 (the period at issue for DIB), or for ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.