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Angela M. v. Michael J. Astrue

December 17, 2010

ANGELA M. LATANTE, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Scullin, Senior Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Angela M. LaTante brought this action pursuant to the Social Security Act (the "Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner"), denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). See Dkt. No. 1.

Currently before this Court are Plaintiff's and Defendant's cross-motions for judgment on the pleadings or, in the alternative, for summary judgment.

II. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff, then twenty-six, filed an application for DIB and SSI on June 20, 2003, claiming that she had been unable to work since March 13, 2003. See Administrative Record ("AR") at 61, 341. In her disability report, Plaintiff cited opiate addiction, bipolar disorder, and social anxiety disorder as her disabling conditions. See id. at 73. The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's claim on November 4, 2003. See id. at 45. Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing on December 23, 2003. See id. at 49. The hearing was held on November 3, 2004, in Watertown, New York before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") R. Neely Owen. See id. at 349. Attorney Peter L. Walton represented Plaintiff, who appeared and testified. See id. at 349, 351. John Newman, a vocational expert ("VE"), also testified. See id. at 378.

ALJ Owen considered the case de novo and issued a written decision denying Plaintiff's application on December 23, 2004. See AR at 32-42. In his decision, ALJ Owen stated that he had carefully considered all medical opinions regarding the severity of Plaintiff's impairments and made the following findings:

1) Plaintiff met the non-disability requirements for a period of disability and DIB set forth in § 216(i) of the Act and is insured for benefits through the date of the decision.

2) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date.

3) Plaintiff's bipolar disorder and personality disorder are severe impairments.

4) Plaintiff's impairments do not meet or medically equal any of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.

5) Plaintiff's allegations regarding her limitations are not totally credible.

6) Plaintiff's RFC is as follows: unlimited physical residual capacity, an inability to perform more than simple, unskilled work due to seriously limited, but not precluded, ability to make mental work-related adjustments.

7) Plaintiff can perform her past relevant work as a cashier and stocker.

8) Plaintiff is a younger individual.

9) Plaintiff has a high-school education.

10) Plaintiff has no skills transferable to work within her residual functional capacity ("RFC").

11) Given Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, jobs exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform.

12) Plaintiff was not under a disability, as defined by the Act, at any time through the date of the ALJ's decision.

See AR at 41-42.

The ALJ's decision became the Commissioner's final decision on April 12, 2006, when the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's request for review.

See AR at 4.

Plaintiff commenced this action on June 12, 2006, see Dkt. No. 1, and filed a supporting brief on December 20, 2006, see Dkt. No. 10. Defendant filed a response brief on April 24, 2007. See Dkt. No. 18.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard of Review

Absent legal error, a court will uphold the Commissioner's final determination if there is substantial evidence to support it. See 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g). The Supreme Court has defined substantial evidence to mean "'more than a mere scintilla'" of evidence and "'such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to ...


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