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Claro v. Astrue

April 1, 2010

DAWN CLARO, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Jeanne E. Scott, U.S. District Judge

OPINION

Plaintiff Dawn Claro appeals the denial of her application for disability insurance benefits under the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The parties have filed cross motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant Commissioner's Motion for Summary Affirmance (d/e 11) is ALLOWED, and Plaintiff Claro's Motion for Summary Judgment (d/e 10) is DENIED. The Decision of the Commissioner is affirmed.

STATEMENT OF FACTS

Claro was born on February 10, 1976. She is right-handed. She graduated from high school and completed a vocational training program in accounting in 1995. She thereafter worked as an accounting clerk until 2002. She has not worked since 2002. She filed her disability application on August 9, 2006, alleging that her disability began on February 1, 2005.

Claro has not challenged the Administrative Law Judge's (ALJ) evaluation of the medical evidence. The Court, therefore, will refer to the ALJ's summary of the medical evidence. Claro suffered from Kienbock's syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome in her right hand and wrist. These conditions caused swelling and numbness in her right hand and wrist. As a result, she became limited in her ability to grasp and perform manipulations with her right hand. Answer (d/e 7), attached Certified Record of Proceedings (R.), at 11. Claro also suffered from a rotator cuff tear in her right shoulder. In January 2007, she had surgery on her shoulder to correct the rotator cuff tear. In October 2007, she had surgery on her right wrist and arm to address the Kienbock's syndrome and carpal tunnel syndrome. R. 13. Claro also suffered from depression and social phobia.

R. 13.

The ALJ held a hearing on her case on July 8, 2008. Claro testified, along with vocational expert J. Stephen Dolan, M.A. Claro testified regarding the severity of her condition. Claro also submitted a written statement by Claro's husband that corroborated her testimony. The ALJ found that Claro's testimony and her husband's statement regarding the severity of her condition were not credible. R. 17. Claro does not challenge these findings on appeal.

Vocational expert Dolan testified at the hearing after Claro. The ALJ and Dolan engaged in the following colloquy:

Q: [A]ssume a hypothetical individual of Ms. Claro's age, education, and work experience. And assume that that person could lift 20 pounds on occasion, 10 pounds frequently. And could stand at least six hours in an eight-hour work day, and could sit at least six. And with the right upper dominant extremity, would have -- we'll get to that in a minute -- would have some problems. But also the person should avoid climbing ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. And then with the -- well, with both upper extremities, the person would be limited to occasionally handling and fingering. But reaching and kneeling would be okay. No problem. . . . [T]he person should avoid jobs that require, you know, pretty much lengthy, if not constant gripping of tools or instruments. And especially those that could be -- cause vibrations like -- well, ones that would cause vibrations. Either run by electric or air, I guess. And the person . . . should avoid working at unprotected heights and around unprotected dangerous machinery. With those restrictions, would the -- any of the past work be able to be performed? . . . .

A: All of the Claimant's past relevant work would be eliminated by those restrictions because they all involve frequent use of the hands for handling and fingering.

Q: Okay. Would there be other jobs that could be performed at the, say the light level?

A: Very, very few, Your Honor. And the reason is that most jobs -- except jobs that are very highly skilled -- require frequent use of the hands.

Q: Okay.

A: And you've eliminated that. There are some jobs. For instance, unarmed security guard jobs in some circumstances might only have to use their hands occasionally. ...


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