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Deborah Castillo v. Michael J. Astrue

October 31, 2011

DEBORAH CASTILLO, 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

On December 20, 2010, plaintiff Deborah Castillo filed a complaint against defendant Michael J. Astrue, seeking a review of a denial of supplemental security income ("SSI") benefits. Both plaintiff and defendant have consented to proceed for all purposes before the assigned Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). The court deems the matter suitable for adjudication without oral argument.

A single disputed issue is presented for decision here: whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly assessed plaintiff's need for a wheelchair. Joint Stipulation ("JS") at 2-3, 3-4, 5.

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 ALJ. Specifically, the ALJ provided clear and convincing reasons for discounting plaintiff's alleged need to use a wheel chair. Therefore, the court affirms the Commissioner's decision denying benefits.

II.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, who was 50 years old on the date of her August 5, 2009 administrative hearing, has a general education diploma. See Administrative Record ("AR") at 24, 107. Plaintiff has no past relevant work. Id. at 22-23, 147, 159.

On February 1, 2008, plaintiff filed an application for SSI, alleging that she has been disabled since January 1, 2000 due to problems with hepatitis C, high blood pressure, diabetes, esophageal varices, vision, depression, and memory. See AR at 9, 60, 107-13. Plaintiff's application was denied initially and upon reconsideration, after which she filed a request for a hearing. Id. at 58, 59, 60-64, 65-71, 72.

On August 5, 2009, plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. AR at 22-43, 57. The ALJ also heard testimony from Troy L. Scott, a vocational expert ("VE"). Id. at 52-55, 103.On October 7, 2009, the ALJ denied plaintiff's request for benefits. Id. at 9-18.

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. AR at 11.

At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff suffers from severe impairments consisting of "diabetes; hepatitis C with cirrhosis; hypertension[;] and a history of bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome." AR at 11 (emphasis 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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