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Kristen Corsi v. Michael J. Astrue

January 9, 2013

KRISTEN CORSI, 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 March 23, 2012, plaintiff Kristen Corsi filed a complaint against defendant Michael J. Astrue, seeking a review of a denial of a period of disability, 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 court deems the matter suitable for adjudication without oral argument.

A single disputed issue is presented for decision here: whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly evaluated plaintiff's credibility and subjective symptoms.

Having carefully studied, inter alia, the parties's written submissions, the Administrative Record ("AR"), and the decision of the ALJ the court concludes that, as detailed herein, the ALJ improperly considered plaintiff's credibility. Consequently, this court remands this matter to the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner") in accordance with the principles and instructions enunciated in this Memorandum Opinion and Order.

II.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, who was 40 years old on the alleged disability onset date, April 1, 2006, completed two years of college. AR at 47, 85, 90, 241. Her past relevant work includes employment as a sales representative and an office clerk. Id. at 55-56, 237.

On August 31, 2007, plaintiff protectively filed an application for SSI. Id. at 78, 222-226. Plaintiff also protectively filed an application for DIB on September 12, 2007. Id. at 79, 227-229. She alleged disability beginning on April 1, 2006, due to leukemia and hypertension. Id. at 222, 227, 232, 236. The Commissioner denied plaintiff's application initially and upon reconsideration, after which she filed a request for a hearing. Id. at 112-121, 124.

On June 16, 2009, plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. Id. at 44-77. Two supplemental hearings took place on October 13, 2009 and January 21, 2010, at which plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified. Id. at 5-43. A medical expert and two vocational experts also variously testified at these hearings. Id. at 7-11, 23-25, 33-39, 48-55. The ALJ denied benefits on March 3, 2010. Id. at 82-100.

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 April 1, 2006, the alleged onset date. Id. at 88.

At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: treated pancytopenia, fatty liver disease, treated neuropathy possibly related to alcohol dependence, alcohol dependence, and depression. Id. If the plaintiff stopped the substance use, the ALJ found that she would continue to suffer from a severe impairment or combination of impairments. Id. at 91.

At step three, the ALJ found that plaintiff's impairments, including the substance use disorder, did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments set forth in the Listings. Id. at 88. Furthermore, the ALJ found that this would remain ...


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