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Patricia Packer v. Michael J. Astrue

April 18, 2011

PATRICIA PACKER, 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 23, 2010, plaintiff Patricia Packer ("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 17, 2010, Defendant filed his answer, along with a certified copy of the administrative record. [Docket Nos. 22, 23, 24.]

In sum, having carefully studied, inter alia, the parties' joint stipulation 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 51 years old on the date of her most recent administrative hearing, has completed high school and paramedics training. (See Administrative Record ("AR") at 100, 399, 675.)

On December 3, 2004,*fn1 Plaintiff filed for DIB and SSI, alleging that she has been disabled since October 23, 2004 due to chest pain, headaches, depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, asthma, arthritis, carpal tunnel, muscle spasms, acid reflux and a hernia. (See AR at 12, 53, 65, 94-95, 350.)

On October 23, 2009, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before an ALJ. (See AR at 675-705.) The ALJ also heard testimony from Troy Scott, a vocational expert ("VE"). (Id.)

On December 11, 2009, the ALJ issued a partially favorable decision, finding Plaintiff disabled as of June 1, 2009. (AR at 12-23.) 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. (Id. at 14.)

At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffers from severe impairments consisting of "morbid obesity; disorder of the lumbar spine; obstructive sleep apnea; asthma; inguinal hernia repair, status post surgical repair, wound infection, and cellulitis; mood disorder, not otherwise specified; and anxiety disorder, not otherwise specified." (AR at 14 (emphasis omitted).)

At step three, the ALJ determined that the evidence did not demonstrate that Plaintiff's impairments, either individually or in combination, met or medically equaled the severity of any listing set forth in the Social Security regulations.*fn2 (AR at 15.)

The ALJ then assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity*fn3 ("RFC") and determined that, prior to June 1, 2009, she could perform light work. (AR at 15.) Specifically, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could lift and/or carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; stand and/or walk 6 hours in an 8-hour workday with normal breaks; sit 6 hours in an 8-hour workday with normal breaks; occasional climbing ramps or stairs; no climbing ladders, ropes or scaffold; and frequent postural activities including balancing, bending, stooping, crouching, and kneeling. Mentally, [Plaintiff] could not perform high-quota, production-rate pace (ie, rapid assembly line work); no safety operations or responsibility for the safety of others; no jobs requiring hypervigilence; and no work around dangerous machinery or unprotected heights. (Id. (emphasis omitted).)

The ALJ further found that "[b]eginning on June 1, 2009, [Plaintiff's RFC] had declined to the point that she could stand/walk less than 2 hours and sit less than 6 hours per day. Because she would not be able to work an 8-hour workday, she could perform less than sedentary work."*fn4 (AR at 21 (emphasis omitted).)

The ALJ found, at step four, that Plaintiff lacks the ability to perform her past relevant work. (AR at 21.)

At step five, based on Plaintiff's RFC and the VE's testimony, the ALJ found that, prior to June 1, 2009, "there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that [Plaintiff] could have performed," such as cafeteria worker, food preparation worker, and maid. (AR at 21-22 (emphasis omitted).) The ALJ further found that "[b]eginning on June 1, 2009, . . . there are no ...


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