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Taylor v. Commissioner of Social Security

June 8, 2010

MARGUERITE TAYLOR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, SUED AS MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, DEFENDANT.



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

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

In November 2008, Administrative Law Judge (hereinafter "ALJ") Barbara Welsch denied Plaintiff Marguerite Taylor's application for disability insurance benefits. The ALJ based her decision on findings that Plaintiff was capable of performing both past relevant work and a significant number of jobs that exist in the national economy; therefore, she was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.

In April 2009, Plaintiff, acting pro se, filed a Complaint (#1) against Defendant Michael Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security, seeking review of the final decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration denying social security benefits. In October 2009, Plaintiff filed a motion titled Motion of Review Hearing (#15) which the Court deems to be a motion for summary judgment. In November 2009, Defendant filed a Motion for an Order Which Affirms the Commissioner's Decision (#16). After reviewing the administrative record and the parties' memoranda, this Court now recommends, pursuant to its authority under 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), that Plaintiff's summary judgment motion (#15) be DENIED.

I. Background

A. Procedural Background

Plaintiff applied for social security benefits in September 2005, alleging disability beginning November 5, 2004.The Social Security Administration denied her application initially and upon reconsideration. She appealed and ALJ Welsch held a hearing in July 2008 at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert, Dr. Ronald Malik, testified. Plaintiff was represented by counsel at the hearing. In November 2008, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's application for social security benefits based on findings that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act and she was capable of performing her past relevant work as a receptionist and as a scheduler. Alternatively, she was able to perform a significant number of jobs available in the national economy. The Appeals Council subsequently denied Plaintiff's request for review and Plaintiff appealed the decision to this Court.

B. The ALJ's Decision

Plaintiff has degenerative disc disease and had surgery in September 2001. The ALJ noted that Plaintiff was diagnosed with failed back surgery syndrome as well as low back, right hip, and thigh pain. (R. 17.) However, Plaintiff continued to work after her back surgery until November 2004 when she was laid off for reasons not related to her physical condition. After she was laid off, she received unemployment benefits through May 2005 and continued to look for work during that time.

The ALJ found that Plaintiff had severe impairments including degenerative disc disease post spine surgery, arthritis, heel spurs, obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. (R. 16.) The ALJ limited Plaintiff to a residual functional capacity (hereinafter "RFC") for sedentary work based on "all her impairments and symptoms combined, including obesity, musculoskeletal pain, hypertension and diabetes." (R. 18.) The ALJ's RFC also stated that Plaintiff is unable to climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds due to musculoskeletal pain, obesity, hypertension, diabetes and side effects from medication; she is unable to perform repetitive bending and stooping due to back pain; and she is unable to perform prolonged walking due to knee and heel pain. (R. 18.)

The ALJ said Plaintiff's medication was not narcotic and she had no restrictions from walking, standing, sitting, lifting, or carrying as required for sedentary level work. (R. 17.) Regarding activities of daily living, the ALJ stated that Plaintiff drove an automobile without apparent difficulty and also stated as follows:

[Plaintiff] attends to her own needs; she is able to make beds, grocery shop, sweep occasionally, wash dishes, use a computer to obtain information, and perform some cooking. She helps her husband do laundry. She traveled to a nearby state and enjoys visiting with her children on the telephone. She also reads the Bible, magazines, and library books. She attends church and other social organizations regularly. She drives an automobile. She is able to attend her own personal needs. Later, she claimed that she can stand for only 20 minutes at one time and that she must occasionally use a cane; however, the record does not indicate that the claimant requires the use of a cane for ambulation.

(R. 17.)

Regarding credibility, the ALJ stated that Plaintiff's claim of complete disability cannot be fully accepted for the following reasons:

First, the objective medical evidence does not demonstrate that the claimant is disabled and unable to work. Although the claimant alleges that she is disabled, at least in part, due to joint and back pain, the medical evidence of record does not demonstrate that the claimant has the significantly limited range of motion, muscle spasms, muscle atrophy, motor weakness, sensation loss, or reflex abnormalities associated with intense and disabling ...


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