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Marilyn N. Russo v. Michael J. Astrue

December 10, 2012

MARILYN N. RUSSO, 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 January 30, 2012, plaintiff Marilyn N. Russo filed a complaint against defendant Michael J. Astrue, seeking a review of a denial of a period of disability and disability insurance benefits ("DIB"). 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 court deems the matter suitable for adjudication without oral argument.

Plaintiff presents a single issue: whether the ALJ properly discounted her credibility. Memorandum in Support of Plaintiff's Complaint ("Pl. Mem.") at 4-14; Defendant's Memorandum in Support of Answer ("D. Mem.") at 2-7. Having carefully studied, inter alia, the parties' moving papers, the Administrative Record ("AR"), and the decision of the ALJ, the court concludes that, as detailed herein, the ALJ properly discounted plaintiff's credibility. Therefore, the court affirms the Commissioner's decision denying benefits.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, who was forty-two years old on the date of her June 9, 2010 administrative hearing, completed two years of college. AR at 29, 36. Her past relevant work was as a back office medical assistant, job development specialist, and administrative clerk. Id. at 54-55.

On June 1, 2009, plaintiff filed an application for a period of DIB due to a right ankle injury and depression. Id. at 66, 109. The Commissioner denied plaintiff's application, after which plaintiff filed a request for a hearing. Id. at 66-71.

On June 9, 2010, plaintiff, having waived representation, appeared and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. Id. at 32, 34-53. The ALJ also heard testimony from Howard Goldfarb, a vocational expert. Id. at 53-60. On July 8, 2010, the ALJ denied plaintiff's claim for benefits (the "2010 Decision"). Id. at 8-25.

Applying the well-known five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found, at step one, that plaintiff did not engage in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date of disability, November 29, 2007. Id. at 13-14.

At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: chronic right ankle ligament and nerve impairment and status post-multiple right ankle surgeries, and obesity. Id. at 14.

At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff's impairments, whether individually or in combination, did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the "Listings"). Id. at 15.

The ALJ then assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC"),*fn1 determining that she had the RFC to perform sedentary work; could lift/carry ten pounds occasionally and less than ten pounds frequently; and in an eight-hour workday with normal breaks, could stand/walk at least two hours and sit for six hours. Id. at 15-16. The ALJ also assessed the following additional limitations: plaintiff should avoid pushing and pulling activities with her right lower extremity; should never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and should not climb ramps or stairs more than occasionally; should no more than occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl; should avoid even moderate exposure to hazards such as dangerous machinery and unprotected heights; and should avoid walking over uneven terrain. Id. at 16.

The ALJ found, at step four, that plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work as a job development specialist. Id. at 20. Consequently, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff did not suffer from a disability as defined by the Social Security Act. Id. at 22.

Plaintiff filed a timely request for review of the ALJ's decision, which was denied by the Appeals Council. Id. at 1-7. The ALJ's decision stands as ...


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