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Chambers v. Commissioner of Social Security Administration

March 31, 2008

BETTY J. CHAMBERS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Donald G. Wilkerson United States Magistrate Judge

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

This matter is before the Court on the Petition for Revocation of the Commissioner's Decision Denying Benefits (entitled "Plaintiff's Brief") filed by Betty J. Chambers ("Plaintiff") on January 8, 2007 (Doc. 21). For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's petition is DENIED and this case is DISMISSED.

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

A. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On June 22, 1999, Plaintiff filed an application requesting supplemental security income benefits alleging that she became disabled on September 30, 1998 (Tr. 88). An Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") denied Plaintiff's application on June 12, 2000. The Appeals Council denied review of the ALJ's decision on April 12, 2002. Because no appeal was taken to a United States District Court, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner (Tr. 88).

On December 6, 2002, Plaintiff filed the present application for Disability Insurance Benefits under the Social Security Act alleging the same disability onset date of September 30, 1998 (Tr. 301). This application was denied initially and upon reconsideration. On May 8, 2003, an ALJ dismissed Plaintiff's application without a hearing because he found that the prior denial of benefits defeated her current application based upon the doctrine of res judicata (Tr. 88-89). The Appeals Council reviewed the ALJ's dismissal and found that the ALJ had misapplied the doctrine of res judicata. The Appeals Council remanded the case and ordered the ALJ to provide Plaintiff with a hearing and to make a written determination on the merits of her case (Tr. 94-95).

A hearing was held on April 22, 2004. Plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified at the hearing, as did a vocational expert, Dr. Darrell Taylor (Tr. 433-468). On June 2, 2004, the ALJ entered a written decision denying Plaintiff benefits and concluding that Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as a cook, delicatessen worker, retail salesperson, or seed sorter, and finding, therefore, that she was not disabled under the statute (Tr. 301-308).

The Appeals Council granted Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision on February 18, 2005 (Tr. 388-391). The Appeals Council informed Plaintiff that although it did not agree with all of the ALJ's findings, it intended to find her not disabled because she could perform has past relevant work as a corn sorter (Tr. 388). The Appeals Council offered her the opportunity to provide additional evidence about her disability prior to September 30, 1999 (Tr. 389). The record indicates that Plaintiff provided additional evidence to the Appeals Council, but that evidenced pertained to Plaintiff's medical condition in 2005 and was, therefore, deemed not relevant to Plaintiff's medical condition as of the date last insured.

On June 17, 2005, the Appeals Council issued its decision denying Plaintiff benefits finding that she could perform her past work as a corn sorter and was therefore not disabled under the statute (Tr. 11-14). Plaintiff now seeks judicial review of the Agency's final decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

B. SUBSTANTIVE HISTORY

1. Claimants History

Plaintiff is a sixty-one-year-old individual who has a high school education. She has past work experience as a seed sorter, delicatessen worker, a cook, and a retail salesperson. She alleges that she became disabled as of September 30, 1998, due to physical ailments which include arthritis, diabetes, and broken ankles. She also alleges that she became disabled on that same date due to depression. She was insured for disability benefits through September 30, 1999.

2. The April 2004 Hearing

At the hearing before the ALJ on April 22, 2004, Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified in support of her claim (Tr. 433-68). Plaintiff was fifty-seven at the time of the hearing (Tr. 437). She testified she had twelve years of education and had no problems with reading, spelling, or general math (Tr. 438). The ALJ explained to Plaintiff that he needed to obtain information from her regarding her work experience for the fifteen years preceding her date last insured so that he could make a determination whether she was capable of performing past work (Tr. 438-39). He informed Plaintiff that if he made a determination that she could not perform any of her past work, ...


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