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Jacqueline L. Costa v. Michael J. Astrue

April 22, 2011

JACQUELINE L. COSTA, 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 3, 2010, plaintiff Jacqueline L. Costa ("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"). [Docket No. 1.]

On November 30, 2010, Defendant filed his answer, along with a certified copy of the administrative record. [Docket Nos. 12, 13, 14, 15.]

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 47 years old on the date of her most recent administrative hearing, has completed high school, certification as a workers' compensation specialist, and medical assistant and phlebotomy training. (See Administrative Record ("AR") at 77, 599, 608, 617.)

On July 9, 2003 and September 23, 2004, Plaintiff filed for DIB, alleging that she has been disabled since October 20, 2000 due to bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, epicondylitis, tendonitis, glucose intolerance, pain, depression, and insomnia. (See AR at 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 58, 65, 74, 77, 81-82.)

On October 10, 2007, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before an ALJ. (See AR at 608-28.) The ALJ also heard testimony from Sandra Fioretti, a vocational expert ("VE"). (Id.)

On October 26, 2007, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's request for benefits. (AR at 12-22.) 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 "status post bilateral carpal tunnel releases, cervical disc syndrome with radiculopathy, mood disorder [not otherwise specified], mixed personality traits, primarily histrionic features." (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, meet or medically equaled the severity of any listing set forth in the Social Security regulations.*fn1 (AR at 14.)

The ALJ then assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity*fn2 ("RFC") and determined that she can perform light work. (AR at 15.) Specifically, the ALJ found Plaintiff can perform "occasional postural restrictions, no working around ladders, ropes or scaffolding, occasional gross manipulation bilaterally and moderate restrictions in activities of daily living, social functioning and in concentration, persistence and pace. Those restrictions mean [Plaintiff] can function and interact appropriately with the public, supervisors and co-workers." (Id. (emphasis omitted).)

The ALJ found, at step four, that Plaintiff has the ability to perform her past relevant work as a legal secretary. (AR at 21.) Thus, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not suffering from a ...


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