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STANTON v. BARNHART

April 15, 2003

PRESTON W. STANTON PLAINTIFF,
v.
JO ANNE BARNHART, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Sidney H. Stein, United States District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Preston Stanton brings this action pursuant to section 205(g) of the Social Security Act (the "Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), to challenge a final determination by defendant Jo Anne B. Barnhart, Commissioner of Social Security, denying him Social Security Disability Insurance ("SSDI") benefits. Both parties have moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c). As set forth below, defendant's motion is granted because there is substantial evidence in support of her determination.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Administrative Proceedings

On December 18, 1997, Stanton submitted an application to the Social Security Administration for SSDI benefits. (R. 75, 91-100.)*fn1 The application was denied both initially and upon reconsideration. (R. 56-59, 62-64.) Upon Stanton's request, administrative law judge Thomas P. Dorsey ("the ALJ") held a de novo hearing on May 14, 1999 to determine whether Stanton was entitled to benefits. (R. 65-66.) On May 27, 1999, the ALJ denied Stanton's application. (R. 13-21.) The ALJ's decision became the final determination of the Commissioner on March 6, 2001, when the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration denied Stanton's request for review. (R. 3-4.)

B. The Record

1. Stanton's Testimony

Stanton, who was 54 years old at the time of the ALJ's hearing, lives in Monticello, New York with his wife and mother-in-law, and sometimes, with his son. (R. 34, 48.) He completed nine years of school and can read and write English. (R. 35.) Stanton testified that he worked as a bell hop at the Concord Hotel for twenty-two years where he frequently carried up to 25 pounds and sometimes lifted over 100 pounds of luggage in the course of his work. (R. 38-39, 87.) Since leaving that job, he has worked only as a school bus driver, from 1992 until 1997, where he drove, completed trip reports, supervised children, broke up fights, and sometimes lifted children on and off the bus. (R. 50, 85-86, 95.) In a typical day as a bus driver, Stanton would sit for six hours, walk for one hour, and stand for one hour in an eight-hour workday. (R. 86, 96.)

Stanton suffered an acute heart attack on October 7, 1994 and a second heart attack on September 23, 1997. As a result of his coronary disease, Stanton has had several medical procedures requiring his hospitalization, including cardiac catheterizations, angioplasties, and stenting. (R. 347, 351.) He claims that he has been unable to work since his second heart attack. Also, Stanton claims that he suffers from "borderline sugar" problems, pain in his legs and arms, swelling in his hands, and shortness of breath. (R. 39, 41, 52.)

Stanton testified that typically, he passes the day sitting at home, watching television. (R. 45.) At times, he goes outside and walks around. (R. 45.) At home, he sometimes helps his wife wash the dishes and does very light cooking. (R. 47.) He drives a car approximately two or three times a week to run errands and visit his son or friends, and occasionally, he goes out to eat at restaurants. (R. 34-35, 46-47.) Periodically, Stanton goes to the race track to watch horse racing with his son. (R. 46.) In addition, approximately five times a month, Stanton goes fishing. (R. 47.)

With respect to his physical limitations, Stanton testified that he can only walk approximately one to two blocks before becoming short of breath. (R. 42.) After walking, he feels tired. (R. 39.) After ten minutes of standing, he complains of pain in his legs. (R. 42.) In addition, Stanton testified that he generally experiences pain in his legs and arms and has poor circulation. (R. 39, 43, 45.) However, he has no difficulty manipulating his hands and fingers. (R 45.) When he sits for prolonged periods of time, he feels tingling in his extremities and experiences swelling. (R. 43-44.) Stanton stated that he can bend, but complains of blood rushing to his head. (R. 43.) Also, he testified that he can kneel, but finds it hard to stand up. (R. 43.) He testified that he can lift one gallon of milk, but not two gallons, because the additional weight would cause him to experience chest pains. (R. 44-45.) Stanton also described episodes of dizziness and stated that he has "borderline sugar" problems for which he used to take medication but now simply monitors his diet.

Stanton is also obese. He is 5'9" and weighs approximately 260 pounds. (R. 49.) He gained approximately 60 to 80 pounds since he quit smoking after his first heart attack. (R. 49-50.)

2. Medical Evidence

When Stanton suffered his first heart attack, he underwent a coronary angioplasty on October 7, 1994 at Valley Hospital. (R. 200.) The procedure was deemed successful in a report by the ...


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