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Rose Lawson v. Michael J. Astrue

May 17, 2011

ROSE LAWSON, 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 June 28, 2010, plaintiff Rose Lawson ("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. 1.]

On December 22, 2010, Defendant filed his answer, along with a certified copy of the administrative record. [Docket Nos. 10, 11, 12.]

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 42 years old on the date of her administrative hearing, has completed one year of college. (See Administrative Record ("AR") at 17, 116, 153.)

On November 21, 2007, Plaintiff protectively filed for DIB and SSI, alleging that she has been disabled since April 1, 2007 due to catamenial seizures and side effects from the seizures. (See AR at 57, 62, 116, 120, 144, 148.)

On August 26, 2009, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before an ALJ. (See AR at 17-51.) The ALJ also heard testimony from David A. Rinehart, a vocational expert ("VE"), William L. Debolt, M.D., a medical expert ("ME"), and Plaintiff's husband Gerald Clarke Lawson, a lay witness. (Id.)

On December 11, 2009, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's request for benefits. (AR at 8-16.) 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 10.)

At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffers from severe seizure disorder. (AR at 10.)

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.*fn1 (AR at 14.)

The ALJ then assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity*fn2 ("RFC") and determined that she can perform "a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following non-exertional limitations: no ladders, ropes or scaffolds; no work at heights; no open bodies of water; not responsible for the safety of others; no driving; and no moving machinery." (AR at 12 (emphasis omitted).)

The ALJ found, at step four, that Plaintiff has the ability to perform her past relevant work as a receptionist, or treatment coordinator in a dental office. (AR at 15.) Thus, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not suffering from a disability as defined by the Act. (Id. at 8, 15, 16.)

Plaintiff filed a timely request for review of the ALJ's decision, which was denied by the Appeals Council. (AR at 1-3, 4.) The ALJ's decision stands as ...


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