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Michelle Garcia v. Commissioner of the Social Security Administration

August 22, 2012

MICHELLE GARCIA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kendall J. Newman United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER

Plaintiff seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act").*fn1 (Dkt. No. 14.) The Commissioner filed an opposition to plaintiff's motion and a cross-motion for summary judgment. (Dkt. No. 16.) For the reasons stated below, the court denies plaintiff's motion for summary judgment and grants the Commissioner's cross-motion for summary judgment.

I. BACKGROUND*fn2

Plaintiff was born on September 20, 1958, and applied for SSI on November 30, 2005. See Administrative Transcript ("AT") 78. In a disability report, plaintiff stated she had completed one year of college. AT 100. Plaintiff reported that she had never worked. AT 92. Plaintiff alleges that she is disabled due to Hepatitis C, irritable bowel syndrome, sleep apnea, asthma, deteriorating bone disease, GERD, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue, and difficulty focusing/concentrating. AT 92.Plaintiff later reported that since January 2006, she walked with a can[e], suffered severe nausea, and had chronic back pain and severe feet, legs, neck, arm and hand pain, characterized as "screaming pain." AT 134.

A. Procedural Background

In a decision dated February 4, 2009, the ALJ denied plaintiff's application.

AT 9-20. As discussed below, the ALJ determined that plaintiff was able to perform jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy, and that plaintiff has not been under a disability at any time since November 30, 2005, the date the application was filed. AT 19. The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review. AT 1-3.

Plaintiff subsequently filed this action. Plaintiff contends that the ALJ improperly found plaintiff's depression is not a severe impairment, failed to properly evaluate and credit the medical evidence, improperly discredited plaintiff, and improperly relied on the Medical-Vocational Guidelines*fn3 in finding plaintiff is not disabled.

B. Summary of the ALJ's Findings

The ALJ conducted the required five-step, sequential evaluation and concluded that plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act.*fn4 At step one, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since November 30, 2005, the application date. AT 11. At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff has severe impairments of anxiety disorder, rule out somatization disorder, GERD, irritable bowel syndrome, hypertension, hepatitis C, degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and cervical spine, allergies and asthma. At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled any impairment listed in the applicable regulations during the relevant time period. The ALJ specifically addressed whether plaintiff meets or medically equals Listings 12.06 and 12.07. AT 11.

The ALJ next assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC"). The ALJ found that: the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except frequent balancing, and occasional climbing of ropes, ladders, and scaffolds, stairs and ramps, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling, no frequent overhead reaching bilaterally, and avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, odors, dusts, gases and poor ventilation; and unskilled work with no public contact.

AT 12-13.*fn5 In making such a finding, the ALJ gave little weight to the testimony of plaintiff and her mother, finding them not credible. AT 18.

At step four, the ALJ found that plaintiff has no past relevant work. AT 18. At step five, using Medical-Vocational Rule 202.20 as a framework for decisionmaking, the ALJ found plaintiff had not been under a disability since ...


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