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Mario R. Trujillo v. Michael J. Astrue

October 2, 2012

MARIO R. TRUJILLO, 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 December 27, 2011, plaintiff Mario R. Trujillo filed a complaint against defendant Michael J. Astrue, seeking a review of a denial of Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and 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 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 considered the evidence of a medically determinable severe mental impairment; and (2) whether the ALJ properly evaluated the opinion of plaintiff's treating physician. Pl.'s Mem. at 15-19, 19-22; Def.'s Mem. at 2-8, 8-10.

Having carefully studied, inter alia, the parties' written submissions and the Administrative Record ("AR"), the court finds that, as detailed herein, the ALJ properly evaluated the medical evidence and determined that plaintiff does not suffer from a severe mental impairment. In addition, the ALJ properly rejected the opinion of plaintiff's treating physician with respect to the extent of his physical impairment. The court therefore affirms the Commissioner's decision denying benefits.

II.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, who was sixty-one years old on the date of his July 27, 2010 administrative hearing, has a high school education. AR at 35-36. His past relevant work includes employment as a security patrol officer. Id. at 164, 186.

Plaintiff protectively filed applications for DIB and SSI on February 12, 2009 and February 23, 2009, respectively. See AR at 14, 51, 53, 134-36, 137-40, 161. Plaintiff alleged that he has been disabled since January 31, 2007 due to diabetes, hypertension, bodily pain, and mental problems. Id. at 57, 153. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration, after which he filed a request for a hearing. Id. at 51, 52, 53, 54, 57-62, 63, 64-69, 70.

On July 27, 2010, plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. AR at 35-44, 46. The ALJ also heard testimony from Dr. Sami Nafoosi, a medical expert ("ME"), and Alan L. Ey, a vocational expert ("VE"). Id. at 42-46, 46-49. On September 17, 2010, the ALJ denied plaintiff's request for benefits. Id. at 14-24.

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 January 31, 2007, his alleged disability onset date. AR at 16.

At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff suffers from severe medically determinable impairments consisting of left shoulder arthritis and a history of a left ankle fracture. AR at 16.

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 ...


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