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Kimberly J. Bitto v. Michael J. Astrue

August 19, 2011

KIMBERLY J. BITTO, 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

E-FILED

Friday, 19 August, 2011 10:49:49 AM

Clerk, U.S. District Court, ILCD

ORDER

On August 5, 2010, Plaintiff Kimberly Bitto filed Plaintiff's Motion For Summary Judgment Or Remand (#12) against Defendant Michael J. Astrue, Commissioner of Social Security. Plaintiff seeks Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB) from July 25, 2005 to October 1, 2006, pursuant to the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Parties have consented to exercise of jurisdiction by a U.S. Magistrate Judge.

In September 2010, Defendant filed a Motion For An Order Which Affirms The Commissioner's Decision (#14). Plaintiff subsequently filed Plaintiff's Reply Brief (#20) and a Notice Of Citation Of Supplemental Authority (#17). After reviewing the parties' pleadings and memoranda, this Court GRANTS Defendant's Motion For an Order Which Affirms The Commissioner's Decision (#14) and DENIES Plaintiff's Motion For Summary Judgment Or Remand (#12).

I. Background

Plaintiff is a 42 year old high school graduate with past relevant work (hereinafter "PRW") as a maintenance mechanic, ingredient mixer, sorter/collater, appliance installer, and machine operator. Plaintiff suffers from blindness in the left eye, diabetic neuropathy, and Charcot disease of the left foot causing her to quit her job on July 25, 2005. Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on September 9, 2005, alleging a closed period of disability beginning July 25, 2005, and ending October 1, 2006. The application was denied, and Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing on March 3, 2006. (R. 62).

Plaintiff received a video hearing before Administrative Law Judge (hereinafter "ALJ") John M. Wood on April 29, 2008, with Vocational Expert (hereinafter "VE") Ronald Malik present. (R. 18-44). The VE considered a hypothetical individual with Plaintiff's PRW with an exertional capacity limited to sedentary work, with the following additional limitations: a need for a sit/stand option; an inability to climb and use ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; an ability to perform other postural functions occasionally; a need to avoid environmental hazards such as unprotected heights and dangerous machinery; and a limitation to jobs that can be performed with monocular vision. The VE testified that such an individual would not be able to perform Plaintiff's PRW, but listed six representative jobs that could be performed by an individual with the aforementioned limitations, as well as Plaintiff's age, education, and work history.

The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision against Plaintiff on May 29, 2008. (R. 6-15). The ALJ acknowledged that Plaintiff was incapacitated for a period of time and incapable of working, but that she regained the capacity for a limited range of sedentary work within 12 months of the alleged onset date of July 25, 2005. (R. 12). Plaintiff subsequently filed a request for review of the hearing decision on July 22, 2008, but the Appeals Council denied review on December 14, 2009. (R. 1-5). Plaintiff filed a timely civil action with this Court on February 23, 2010. (R. 45).

II. Standard

An individual may seek judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security if a complaint is timely filed. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). When the Appeals Council denies review, the ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481; Schmidt v. Astrue, 496 F.3d 833, 841 (7th Cir. 2007). The decision of the ALJ should be affirmed if it is supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Haynes v. Barnhart, 416 F.3d 621, 626 (7th Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence means "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Elder v. Astrue, 529 F.3d 408, 413 (7th Cir. 2008) (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). The ALJ must "build a logical bridge from the evidence to his conclusion." Haynes, 416 F.3d at 626. This does not mean the ALJ must provide a "complete written evaluation of every piece of testimony and evidence." Id. (quoting Diaz v. Chater, 55 F.3d 300, 308 (7th Cir. 1995)). The opinion of a treating physician regarding the nature and severity of a medical condition should be given controlling weight if well supported by medical findings and not inconsistent with other evidence in the record. Clifford v. Apfel, 227 F.3d 863, 870 (7th Cir. 2000). However, a claimant is not entitled to disability benefits simply because a physician finds that the claimant is "disabled" or "unable to work" because the Commissioner is charged with determining the ultimate issue of disability. Id.

III. Discussion

Plaintiff argues the ALJ's RFC determination is incomplete, erroneous, and not supported by substantial evidence, in that the ALJ fails to account for Plaintiff's monocular vision and improperly weighs medical evidence. Additionally, Plaintiff asserts the ALJ's credibility finding is vague, erroneous, and not supported by substantial evidence. Lastly, Plaintiff ...


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