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Patricia Hunt v. Michael J. Astrue

June 10, 2011

PATRICIA HUNT, 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 14, 2010, plaintiff Patricia Hunt ("Plaintiff") filed a complaint against defendant Michael J. Astrue ("Defendant" or "Commissioner"), seeking review of a denial of disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income benefits ("SSI"). [Docket No. 3.]

On March 16, 2010, Defendant filed his answer, along with a certified copy of the administrative record. [Docket Nos. 12, 13.]

On May 18, 2011, both parties submitted a detailed, 23-page joint stipulation ("Joint Stip."). [Docket No. 14.]

In sum, having carefully studied, inter alia, the parties' written submissions and the administrative record, the Court concludes that, as detailed below, the decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") is not free of legal error. Thus, the Court remands the Commissioner's decision denying benefits.

II.

PERTINENT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, who was 46 years of age on the date of her administrative hearing, has completed high school. (Administrative Record ("AR") at 15, 94, 120.) Her past relevant work includes employment as a waitress and as an in-home support service assistant. (Id. at 19-23, 108-10.)

Plaintiff filed for DIB and SSI on March 27, 2007, alleging that she has been disabled since January 1, 2007 due to mental/manic depression, saratonin imbalance, back problems, indometriosis, and migraines. (AR at 94-102, 116.) At her hearing, Plaintiff amended her onset date to June 2005. (Id. at 23-24, 256.) Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration, after which she filed a timely request for a hearing. (Id. at 53-57, 58-60, 61-65,68-69.)

On March 31, 2009, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. (AR at 15-48.) Lynn Warry, Plaintiff's friend, and Sandra Fioretti, a vocational expert ("VE"), also testified. (Id. at 34-43, 43-46.)

On September 1, 2009, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision denying Plaintiff's request for benefits. (ARat 9-14.) 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 disability. (Id. at 11.)

At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffers from severe impairments of degenerative disc disease and mood disorder. (ARat 11.)

At step three, the ALJ determined that the evidence does not demonstrate that Plaintiff's impairment, either individually or in combination, meet or medically equal the severity of any listing set forth ...


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