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Klyaic v. Astrue

February 26, 2010

SANDRA J. KLYAIC, 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 December 2007, Administrative Law Judge (hereinafter "ALJ") Gerard Rickert denied Plaintiff Sandra Klyaic's application for social security disability insurance benefits. The ALJ based his decision on his finding that Plaintiff was able to perform some of her past relevant work. The Appeals Council disagreed with the ALJ regarding Plaintiff's past relevant work but found Plaintiff was not disabled.

In December 2008, Plaintiff filed a Complaint for Judicial Review (#4) against Defendant Michael Astrue, the Commissioner of Social Security, seeking judicial review of the ALJ's decision to deny social security benefits. In May 2009, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment or Remand (#12). In May 2009, Defendant filed a Motion for an Order Which Affirms the Commissioner's Decision (#15). After reviewing the administrative record and the parties' memoranda, this Court DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment or Remand (#12).

I. Background

A. Procedural Background

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

Plaintiff filed an application for disability benefits alleging an onset date of September 30, 2004. Her claim for disability benefits is based on her status as the widow of a deceased worker. The ALJ found that she satisfied the non-disability requirements for coverage and that she must establish that her disability began on or before December 31, 2005, in order to be entitled to benefits.

The Social Security Administration denied her application initially and on reconsideration. At Plaintiff's request, the ALJ held a video hearing on January 10, 2007. An attorney represented Plaintiff at the hearing. Plaintiff and a vocational expert, Bonnie Gladden, testified at the hearing. In December 2007, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff benefits on the basis that she could perform her past relevant work.

In August 2008, the Appeals Council reviewed the case and found that the ALJ had erred by finding that Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work as a cook and cashier because her earnings record did not reflect any earnings that reached the level of substantial gainful activity. (#10, pp. 8-9.) The Appeals Council stated that Plaintiff was able to perform the full range of medium work, she was closely approaching advanced age, and she had a limited or less education. Accordingly, the Appeals Council found that 20 C.F.R. § 404.1569 and Rule 203.18, Table No. 3 of 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2, directed a finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. (#10, p. 9.) Thus, the Appeals Council's decision, not the ALJ's decision, is the final decision of the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. § 404.981. In December 2008, Plaintiff appealed this decision by filing a complaint with this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Plaintiff seeks an outright reversal. In the alternative, she asks the Court to remand the case for reconsideration.

B. Factual Background

Plaintiff's application alleges disability based on high blood pressure and depression.

(R. 107.) At the hearing, Plaintiff testified that she cannot stand very long because of hip pain.

(R. 44.)

The ALJ found that Plaintiff had the severe impairment of hip pain. She also has been diagnosed with high blood pressure and depression. The ALJ stated that Plaintiff had no medically-determinable impairment of high blood pressure and that Plaintiff's depression was mild. He stated that Plaintiff has the residual ...


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