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Renato C. Susa v. Michael J. Astrue

May 26, 2011

RENATO C. SUSA, 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 September 2, 2010, plaintiff Renato C. Susa ("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. 3.]

On March 24, 2011, Defendant filed his answer, along with a certified copy of the administrative record. [Docket Nos. 12, 13.]

In sum, having carefully studied, inter alia, the parties' joint stipulation and the administrative record, the Court concludes that, as detailed below, the medical evidence submitted for the first time to the Appeals Council poses no reasonable probability of changing the outcome of 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 48 years old on the date of his administrative hearing, has an eighth grade education completed in the Phillipines. (See Administrative Record ("AR") at 174, 181-82, 235, 265.)

On February 12, 2007, Plaintiff protectively filed for DIB, alleging that he has been disabled since May 23, 2006 due to back problems, arthritis, ulcers, difficulty sleeping, and emotional stress. (See AR at 198, 235, 256, 260.)

On May 30, 2008, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before an ALJ. (See AR at 174-96.) The ALJ also heard testimony from Sandra Schneider, a vocational expert ("VE"). (Id.) An interpreter was present to assist Plaintiff at the hearing. (Id.)

On August 20, 2008, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's request for benefits. (AR at 52-66.) 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 his alleged onset date. (Id. at 55.)

At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffers from severe impairments consisting of "disc disease of the lumbar spine[,] depressive disorder [not otherwise specified,] and alcohol abuse." (AR at 55 (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 63.)

The ALJ then assessed Plaintiff's residual functional capacity*fn2 ("RFC") and determined that he can perform light work. (AR at 63.) Specifically, the ALJ determined that:

[Plaintiff] can lift and carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently. He can stand and walk for 6 hours and can sit for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, with normal breaks. However, he must be permitted to alternate sitting and standing as needed. He is also moderately limited in performing complex tasks and ...


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