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Abbott v. Astrue

November 10, 2009

CLARK ABBOTT, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: David G. Bernthal U.S. Magistrate Judge

ORDER

In January 2008, Administrative Law Judge (hereinafter "ALJ") John Wood denied Plaintiff Clark Abbott's application for disability insurance benefits. ALJ Wood based his decision on a finding that Plaintiff was able to perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy.

In August 2008, Plaintiff filed a Complaint To Review Decision of Social Security (#5) against Defendant Michael Astrue, the Commissioner of Social Security, seeking judicial review of the ALJ's decision to deny social security benefits. In February 2009, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment (#17). In May 2009, Defendant filed a Motion for an Order Which Affirms the Commissioner's Decision (#22). In June 2009, Plaintiff filed a Memorandum in Reply to Commissioner's Memorandum in Support of Motion for Summary Affirmance (#24). After reviewing the administrative record and the parties' memoranda, this Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (#17).

I. Procedural Background

In June 2004, Plaintiff filed an application for social security benefits alleging disability beginning August 29, 1999, due to Plaintiff's left knee pain limiting his ability to walk and stand and the residual effects of a myocardial infarction. (R. 82.) He subsequently amended his application to seek disability beginning February 1, 2004. The Social Security Administration denied his application initially and on reconsideration. At Plaintiff's request, the ALJ held a hearing in October 2007. An attorney represented Plaintiff at the hearing. Plaintiff and a vocational expert, Bob Hammond, testified at the hearing. Plaintiff's date last insured was December 31, 2004. In January 2008, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff benefits on the basis that, through his date last insured, he could perform work that existed in significant numbers in the national economy; therefore he was not disabled through the period from his onset date to his date last insured. In July 2008, the Appeals Council denied review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. In August 2008, Plaintiff appealed this decision by filing a complaint with this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff seeks a reversal of the decision, a finding that Plaintiff was disabled beginning December 31, 2004, and remand for reconsideration regarding the limited issue of the appropriate onset date.

The parties have consented to the exercise of federal jurisdiction by a United States Magistrate Judge.

II. Standard of Review

In reviewing an ALJ's decision, this Court does not try the case de novo or replace the ALJ's finding with the Court's own assessment of the evidence. Pugh v. Bowen, 870 F.2d 1271, 1274 (7th Cir. 1989). The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact are conclusive if supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Thus, the question before the Court is not whether a plaintiff is, in fact, disabled, but whether the evidence substantially supports the ALJ's findings. Diaz v. Chater, 55 F.3d 300, 306 (7th Cir. 1995). The Supreme Court has defined substantial evidence as "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). In other words, so long as, in light of all the evidence, reasonable minds could differ concerning whether a plaintiff is disabled, the Court must affirm the ALJ's decision denying benefits. Books v. Chater, 91 F.3d 972, 977-78 (7th Cir. 1996).

The Court gives considerable deference to the ALJ's credibility finding and will not overturn it unless the plaintiff can show that those findings are patently wrong. Urban v. Sullivan, 799 F. Supp. 908, 911 (C.D. Ill. 1992).

III. Discussion

Plaintiff presents three main issues: (1) the ALJ erred at Step Five by relying on the VE's testimony; (2) the ALJ erred at Step Two by failing to consider Plaintiff's peripheral vascular disease with associated vasculitis, chronic rental disease, and vascular disease of the brain as "severe impairments"; and (3) the ALJ erred when assessing Plaintiff's credibility.

A. The VE's Testimony

Plaintiff argues that the ALJ identified only one job that Plaintiff could perform at the sedentary exertional level, the caseworker position, and he erred when he did so because ...


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