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Lauretta Sheetz v. Michael J. Astrue

September 21, 2012

LAURETTA SHEETZ,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barbara A. McAuliffe United States Magistrate Judge

ORDER ON PLAINTIFF'S SOCIAL SECURITY COMPLAINT

I. INTRODUCTION

Pending before the Court is plaintiff Lauretta Sheetz's ("Plaintiff") motion for summary judgment and the cross-motion for summary judgment of defendant Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner"). Plaintiff seeks judicial review of an administrative decision denying her claim for Supplemental Security Income disability benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

Plaintiff filed her complaint on April 8, 2011. (Doc. 2.) Plaintiff filed her summary judgment motion on November 22, 2011. ( Doc. 12.) The Commissioner filed his summary judgment cross-motion and opposition on December 22, 2011. (Doc. 14.) Both parties have consented to conduct all proceedings before the assigned United States Magistrate Judge. (Doc. 8, 9.) The matter is currently before the Court on the parties' briefs, which were submitted without oral argument to United States Magistrate Judge Barbara A. McAuliffe. Having considered the administrative record and the parties' briefs, the Court issues the following order.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Overview of Administrative Proceedings

On January 30, 2007, Plaintiff applied for Disability Insurance Benefits pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act (the "Act") (Administrative Record, "AR," at 125-26.) Plaintiff's application was denied on initial review and again on reconsideration. (AR at 64, 74.) Thereafter, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (the "ALJ"). On May 4, 2009, Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified before the ALJ. (AR at 26-63.) In a decision dated September 22, 2009, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled from June 6, 2005 through February 21, 2008, however, beginning February 21, 2008, Plaintiff was disabled under the Act. (AR at 10-23.) The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (AR at 3-5.) Plaintiff then commenced this action for judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

B. ALJ Findings

The ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled prior to February 21, 2008, however, became disabled on that date and has continued to be disabled. Plaintiff does not challenge the ALJ made any errors in evaluating medical evidence, hearing testimony or in making his residual functional capacity finding. Plaintiff only challenges the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff could perform work in the national economy prior to February 21, 2008, based on Plaintiff's residual functional capacity finding. Thus, the Court summarizes the ALJ's findings to the extent they are necessary to this appeal. Relevant to this appeal, the ALJ determined that:

1. Since the alleged onset date of disability, June 6, 2005, Plaintiff has had the following severe impairments: status post-bilateral knee arthroplasties; status post -L4-5 laminectomy and fusion with hardware; mild disc bulging at L3-4 and L4-5; cervical degenerative disc disease; gastro-esophageal reflux disease; and hypothyroidism. Beginning on the established onset date of disability, February 21, 2008, Plaintiff has also had right thumb trigger finger with degenerative arthritis;

2. Between June 6, 2005 and February 21, 2008, Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1(20 C.F.R. 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526);

3. Prior to February 21, 2008, Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity to lift and carry no more than 10 pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally. Plaintiff could stand and walk 2-4 hours out of an eight hour work day, and sit 4-6 hours out of an eight hour workday. Plaintiff was limited to occasional climbing, pushing and pulling and is unable to climb, stoop or crouch. Plaintiff required the ability to sit or stand at will.

4. Prior to February 21, 2008, Plaintiff could perform jobs existing in significant numbers ...


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