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Raymond Malgra v. Michael J. Astrue

February 10, 2012

RAYMOND MALGRA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I.

INTRODUCTION

On May 16, 2011, plaintiff Raymond Malgra filed a complaint against defendant Michael J. Astrue, seeking a review of a denial of Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). 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 parties' briefing is now complete, and the court deems the matter suitable for adjudication without oral argument.

Two issues are presented for decision here: (1) whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly determined at step four that plaintiff is capable of performing his past relevant work; and (2) whether the ALJ properly determined at step five that plaintiff is capable of performing other work in the national economy. Pl.'s Mem. at 3-4, 4-5; Def.'s Mem. at 2-5, 5-7.

Having carefully studied, inter alia, the parties' written submissions and the Administrative Record ("AR"), the court concludes that, as detailed herein, there is substantial evidence in the record, taken as whole, to support the ALJ's decision. First, the ALJ properly determined at step four that plaintiff is capable of performing his past relevant work. And second, although the ALJ erred at step five in his alternative finding that plaintiff is capable of performing other work that exists in the national economy, such error was harmless in light of the ALJ's proper step four determination. The court therefore affirms the Commissioner's decision denying benefits.

II.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, who was twenty-one years old on the date of his July 14, 2009 administrative hearing, has an eleventh-grade education. See AR at 18, 26, 108, 111. His only past relevant work is as a fast-foods worker. Id. at 46, 121-22.

On November 16, 2007, plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI, alleging that he has been disabled since April 15, 2007 due to neurofibromatosis, long QT syndrome, and seizures. See AR at 108-10, 111-14, 120. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration, after which he filed a request for a hearing. Id. at 50, 51, 52, 53, 54-58, 59, 60-65, 66.

On July 14, 2009, plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. AR at 20-35, 38, 46. The ALJ also heard testimony from David Rinehart, a vocational expert ("VE"). Id. at 45-48. On November 24, 2009, the ALJ denied plaintiff's request for benefits. Id. at 9-17.

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 disability onset date. AR at 11.

At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff suffers from severe impairments consisting of a seizure disorder and a long QT interval. AR at 11.*fn1

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


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