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Teresa Vasquez v. Michael J. Astrue

June 28, 2011

TERESA VASQUEZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Sheri Pym United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION AND SUMMARY

On September 2, 2010, plaintiff Teresa Vasquez ("Plaintiff") filed a complaint against defendant Michael J. Astrue ("Defendant" or "Commissioner"), seeking a review of a denial of disability insurance benefits ("DIB"), supplemental security income ("SSI"), and disabled widow's benefits. [Docket No. 3.]

On March 3, 2011, Defendant filed his answer, along with a certified copy of the administrative record. [Docket Nos. 12, 13.]

On April 27, 2011, this matter was transferred to the calender of the undersigned Magistrate Judge. [Docket No. 14.] Both Plaintiff and Defendant subsequently consented to proceed for all purposes before the Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). [Docket Nos. 15, 17.]

Pursuant to a September 3, 2010 case management order, the parties submitted a detailed, 22-page joint stipulation for decision on April 29, 2011. [Docket No. 19.] The Court deems the matter suitable for adjudication without oral argument.

In sum, having carefully studied, inter alia, the parties' joint stipulation and the administrative record, the Court concludes that, as detailed herein, there is substantial evidence in the record, taken as a whole, to support the decision of the Administrate Law Judge ("ALJ"). Therefore, the Court affirms the Commissioner's decision denying benefits.

II. PERTINENT FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, who was 57 years old on the date of her July 20, 2009 administrative hearing, has a sixth grade education. (See Administrative Record ("AR") at 36, 40-41, 119, 123, 128.) Her past relevant work includes employment as a baby sitter and sales representative. (Id. at 47-48; 144-46.)

On August 29, 2007, Plaintiff filed applications for DIB, SSI, and disabled widow's benefits alleging that she has been disabled since August 27, 2007 due to asthma, high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, spinal cord and disc problems, broken sternum, upper body problems, and thyroid problems. (See AR at 26, 41, 74, 119-22, 123-25, 128-29.) Plaintiff's applications were denied initially, after which she filed a request for a hearing. (Id. at 68, 69, 70, 74-78, 79.)

On July 20, 2009, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. (AR at 36, 39-56, 67.) The ALJ also heard testimony from Freeman Leeth, a vocational expert ("VE"). (Id. at 58-63, 67.)

On August 21, 2009, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's request for benefits. (AR at 20-25.) 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 29.)

At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffers from severe impairments consisting of "obesity, lumbar spine degenerative disc disease, mild lumbar spondylosis and asthma." (AR at 29 (bold omitted).)

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


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