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Barbara M. Briest v. Commissioner of Social Security

December 17, 2010

BARBARA M. BRIEST, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff Barbara Briest 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 and Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). 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 fifty-two, filed an application for DIB on January 24, 2005, claiming that she had been unable to work since July 1, 1999. See Administrative Record ("AR") at 37. In her disability report, Plaintiff cited bipolar disorder as her disabling condition. See id. at 48. The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's claim on March 23, 2005. See id. at 20. Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing on April 4, 2005. See id. at 24. The hearing occurred on May 3, 2006, in Syracuse, New York, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Robert Gale. See id. at 177. Attorney Peter Stratton represented Plaintiff, who appeared and testified. See id. at 177, 179.

ALJ Gale considered the case de novo and issued a written decision denying Plaintiff's application on May 23, 2006. See AR at 9-17. In his decision, ALJ Gale made the following findings:

1) Plaintiff last met the insured status requirements of the Act on December 31, 2004.

2) Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity at any time relevant to ALJ Gale's decision.

3) Plaintiff has bipolar disorder, a severe impairment. Plaintiff's obesity is not limiting to her, so it is a non-severe impairment.

4) Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.

5) Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform at all exertion levels. Plaintiff can complete simple one- or two-step tasks in a low-stress environment, defined as only occasional changes in the work setting and only occasional interaction with co-workers and supervisors.

6) Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work. Plaintiff's past relevant work as a restaurant cook is not characterized by a sufficiently low-stress environment.

7) Plaintiff was born on February 12, 1952, and was forty-seven on the alleged disability onset date; she met the definition of a younger individual, which, here, is defined as between ages forty-five and forty-nine.

8) Plaintiff has a limited education and can communicate in English.

9) Transferability of job skills is a moot issue as Plaintiff's past relevant work is unskilled.

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

11) Plaintiff has not been under a "disability" within the Act's definition of that term from July 1, 1999, through ...


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