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Olmstead v. Astrue

November 16, 2010

MICHAEL R. OLMSTEAD, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Gary L. Sharpe District Court Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Michael Olmstead challenges the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of supplemental security income (SSI), seeking judicial review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). (See Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) After reviewing the administrative record and carefully considering the arguments, the court affirms the Commissioner's decision and dismisses Olmstead's complaint.

II. Background

On February 17, 2005, Olmstead filed an application for SSI under the Social Security Act, alleging disability beginning on January 15, 2005, due to musculoskeletal and mental impairments. (Tr.*fn1 at 66-68; see also Tr. at 37.) After his application was denied, Olmstead requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on September 26, 2006. (Tr. at 519-39.) On December 11, 2006, the ALJ issued a decision denying the requested benefits, (Tr. at 37-43), which became the Commissioner's final decision upon the Social Security Administration Appeals Council's denial of review. (Tr. at 5-7.)

Olmstead commenced the present action by filing a complaint on September 13, 2007, seeking review of the Commissioner's determination. (Dkt. No. 1.) The Commissioner filed an answer and a certified copy of the administrative transcript. (Dkt. Nos. 7, 8.) Each party, seeking judgment on the pleadings, filed a brief. (Dkt. Nos. 9, 10.)

III. Contentions

Olmstead contends that the Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence or the appropriate legal standards. Specifically, Olmstead claims that the ALJ: (1) erred in finding Olmstead's mental impairments non-severe; (2) failed to follow the treating physician rule in evaluating Olmstead's residual functional capacity (RFC); and (3) did not apply the correct legal standard in assessing Olmstead's history of drug and alcohol abuse. (See Pl. Br. at 12-21, Dkt. No. 9.) The Commissioner counters that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision. (See Def. Br. at 7-21, Dkt. No. 10.)

IV. Facts

The evidence in this case is undisputed and the court adopts the parties' factual recitations. (See Pl. Br. at 3-11, Dkt. No. 9; Def. Br. at 1-2, Dkt. No. 10.)

V. Standard of Review

The standard for reviewing the Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is well established and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standard and the five-step process used by the Commissioner in evaluating whether a claimant is disabled under the Act, the court refers the parties to its previous opinion in Christiana v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. Admin., No. 1:05-CV-932, 2008 WL 759076, at *1-2 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 19, 2008).

VI. Discussion

A. Severity of Mental Impairments and Materiality of Drug ...


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