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Cynthia Muse v. Michael J. Astrue

March 17, 2011

CYNTHIA MUSE, 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 February 3, 2010, plaintiff Cynthia Muse ("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 May 10, 2010, Defendant filed his answer, along with a certified copy of the administrative record. [Docket Nos. 15, 16.]

In sum, having carefully studied, inter alia, the parties' written submissions and the administrative record, the Court concludes that, as detailed below, there is substantial evidence in the record, taken as a whole, to support the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). Thus, the Court affirms the Commissioner's decision denying benefits.

II. PERTINENT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, who was 28 years old on the date of her administrative hearing, has completed high school and one year of college. (See Administrative Record ("AR") at 14, 42, 126, 167.)

On July 23, 2008, Plaintiff filed for DIB and SSI, alleging that she has been disabled since June 16, 2008*fn1 due to multiple sclerosis, degenerative disc disease and optic neuritis. (See AR at 60, 65, 126-30, 131-34.)

On May 15, 2009, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before an ALJ. (See AR at 14-45.) The ALJ also heard testimony from Samuel Landoff, a medical expert ("ME"), and Corrine Porter, a vocational expert ("VE"). (Id.)

On September 15, 2009, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's request for benefits. (AR at 7-13.) 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 June 1, 2006. (Id. at 9.)

At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffers from severe impairments consisting of "multiple sclerosis, relapsing-remitting type, degenerative disc and joint disease of the thoracolumbar spine with moderate level II obesity." (AR at 9 (emphasis omitted).)

At step three, the ALJ determined that the evidence did not demonstrate that Plaintiff's impairment, either individually or in combination, met or medically equaled the severity of any listing set forth in the Social Security regulations.*fn2 (AR at 10.)

The ALJ then assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity*fn3 ("RFC") and determined that she can perform light work. (AR at 10.) Specifically, the ALJ found that Plaintiff can "stand or walk only two hours in an eight-hour workday, sit eight-hours in an eight-hour workday with customary breaks, only occasional climbing, balancing, stooping, crouching, kneeling, and crawling, no climbing of ladders or ...


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