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Brenda Gail Cole v. Carolyn W. Colvin

May 16, 2013

BRENDA GAIL COLE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING 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 May 31, 2012, plaintiff Brenda Gail Cole filed a complaint against defendant, the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("Commissioner"), seeking a review of a denial of supplemental security income ("SSI"). On June 29, 2012, plaintiff filed an amended complaint. 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 two issues for decision: (1) whether the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") properly discounted plaintiff's subjective complaints; and (2) whether the ALJ properly discounted the testimony of a third-party witness regarding plaintiff's limitations. Memorandum in Support of Plaintiff's Complaint ("Pl.'s Mem.") at 4-12; Memorandum in Support of Defendant's Answer ("Def.'s Mem.") at 2-6.

Having carefully studied, inter alia, the parties's 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 and the lay witness's credibility. Consequently, this court affirms the decision of the Commissioner denying benefits.

II.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND Plaintiff, who was forty-nine years old on the date of her July 19, 2010 administrative hearing, has a ninth grade education. AR at 29, 127, 132. She has no past relevant work experience. Id. at 29.

On December 22, 2008, plaintiff filed an application for SSI, alleging that she has been disabled since March 1, 2003, due to diabetes and back problems. Id. at 127. The Commissioner denied plaintiff's application initially and upon reconsideration, after which plaintiff filed a request for a hearing. Id. at 24, 55-61, 71.

On July 19, 2010, plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared and testified at a hearing before the ALJ. Id. at 35-51. Corinne Porter, a vocational expert ("VE"), also testified at the hearing. Id. at 51-54. On September 2, 2010, the ALJ denied plaintiff's claim for benefits. Id. at 24-31.

Applying the well-known five-step sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found, at step one, that plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 22, 2008, the application date. Id. at 26.

At step two, the ALJ found that plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus with diabetic neuropathy, treated hypertension, and bipolar disorder. Id.

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 26-28.

The ALJ then assessed plaintiff's residual functional capacity ("RFC"), and *fn1determined that she had the RFC to perform medium work, with the limitations that plaintiff can "stand or walk six hours in an eight-hour workday with customary breaks, sit without restriction except for customary breaks, [and] occasionally walk on uneven terrain, climb ladders, or work at heights . . . ." Id. at 28. The ALJ found "no restriction on bending, crouching, kneeling, ...


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