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Maria Yolanda Suarez v. Michael J. Astrue

October 11, 2012

MARIA YOLANDA SUAREZ, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY DMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

I. NTRODUCTION

On December 9, 2011, plaintiff Maria Yolanda Suarez filed a complaint against defendant Michael J. Astrue, seeking a review of a denial of Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income benefits ("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 five that plaintiff is capable of performing work as a small products assembler II, inspector and hand packager, and bench assembler; and (2) whether the ALJ properly evaluated plaintiff's credibility and subjective symptoms. Pl.'s Mem. at 3-6, 6-9; Def.'s Mem. at 2-5, 5-7; Reply at 1-3, 3-4.

Having carefully studied, inter alia, the parties' written submissions and the Administrative Record ("AR"), the court concludes that, as detailed herein, there is no conflict between the Dictionary of Occupational Titles ("DOT") and the testimony of the vocational expert ("VE") as to at least one of the three jobs the VE testified plaintiff can perform, and thus any error at step five was harmless. Further, the ALJ properly discounted plaintiff's credibility and her subjective complaints. Consequently, this court affirms the decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") denying benefits.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, who was fifty-four years old on the date of her January 4, 2010 administrative hearing, has a ninth grade education. See AR at 48, 129. Her past relevant work includes employment as a stock clerk. Id. at 48, 135.

On July 29, 2008, plaintiff applied for DIB and SSI, alleging that she has been disabled since October 8, 1999 due to rheumatoid arthritis of the arms, hands, and legs. See AR at 116-24, 125-26, 134. Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and upon reconsideration, after which she filed a request for a hearing. Id. at 57-65, 68-73, 75.

On January 4, 2010, plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. AR at 32-49, 54-55. The ALJ also heard testimony from Sandra Fioretti, a vocational expert. Id. at 47-54. On February 5, 2010, the ALJ denied plaintiff's request for benefits. Id. at 16-26.

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 her alleged disability onset date. AR at 18.

At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff suffers from severe medically determinable impairments consisting of: rheumatoid arthritis and decreased vision in the left eye. AR at 18.

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 set forth in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix

1. AR at 20.

The ALJ then assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC") and *fn1 determined that she can perform less than a full range of light work. AR at 20. Specifically, the ALJ found that: plaintiff can occasionally lift and carry twenty pounds and frequently lift and carry ten pounds; plaintiff can stand and walk for six hours in an eight-hour workday with regular breaks; plaintiff can sit for six hours in an eight-hour workday with regular breaks; plaintiff can perform occasional postural activities; plaintiff cannot perform forceful gripping or grasping with either hand; plaintiff cannot ...


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