Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for supplemental security income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. For the reasons discussed below, the court denies plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and grants the Commissioner's motion for summary judgment.
I. Factual and Procedural Background
Plaintiff filed an application for supplemental security income on August 22, 2006, alleging that he had been disabled since March 28, 2003. Administrative Record ("AR") 11. His application was denied initially and on reconsideration. Id. On March 25, 2008, a hearing was held before administrative law judge ("ALJ") Thomas P. Tielens. Id. at 19. Plaintiff was represented by non-attorney Dennis Contreras at the hearing, at which plaintiff and vocational expert ("VE") Malcolm Brodzinsky testified. Id. at 11.
On March 24, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision finding that plaintiff was not disabled.*fn1
Id. at 19. The ALJ made the following specific findings:
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since August 22, 2006, the application date (20 CFR 416.971 et seq.). . ..
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments: (1) degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine and low pack pain, status post fracture of the left pars at L5 in March 2003 (Exhibits 14F/19, 13F/6; mild stenosis at L5-S1, 12F, Exhibit 13F/4; stable lumbar spine on 08/19/2005); (2) chronic neck pain (Exhibit 13F/5: minimal abnormality on 08/18/2005); and (3) bilateral knee pain and left knee chondromalacia, status post arthroscopic surgery in March 2007 (Exhibit 16F/5: "normal variant;" 13F/9 "anatomic variant;" 11F/13-16; 18F/9: "no continued pain," as of 08/28/2008) (20 CFR 416.921 et seq.). . . .
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the criteria of any section of the Listing of Impairments at 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.925 and 416.926).
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except requires a sit/stand option; occasional climbing, stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling; and simple, repetitive tasks, due to pain and the possible side effects of medications. . . .
5. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965). . . .
6. The claimant was born on..., 1969, and was 36 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the date the application was filed (20 CFR 416.963).
7. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).
8. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is "not disabled," whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
9. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant ...