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Ruby Elizabeth Laderson v. Michael J. Astrue

December 6, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Robert P. Patterson, Jr., U.S.D.J.


Plaintiff Ruby Elizabeth Laderson, pro se, brings this action pursuant to § 205(g) and § 1631(c)(3) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and § 1383(c)(3), challenging the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (the "Commissioner") denying her Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") and disability insurance benefits. (Compl. ¶ 1.) The Commissioner moves pursuant to Rule 12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure ("Fed. R. Civ. P.") for a judgment on the pleadings affirming the Commissioner's decision that the Plaintiff was not disabled. (Def.'s Mem. at 1.) For the reasons that follow, the Commissioner's motion is granted.

I. Background

A. Procedural History

On February 14, 2008, Plaintiff filed applications for SSI and disability insurance benefits under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act. (Transcript of the Administrative Record filed by the Commissioner ("Tr.") at 11.)*fn1 Plaintiff sought benefits retroactive to January 11, 2008, the date of the alleged onset of her disability. (Id.) Plaintiff alleged disability due to congestive heart failure, diabetes, asthma, and osteoarthritis. (Compl. ¶ 3.)

On October 20, 2009, Plaintiff appeared before Administrative Law Judge Robert Gonzalez (the "ALJ") in White Plains, New York for a hearing. (Tr. at 18.) On December 23, 2009, ALJ Gonzalez issued a letter decision denying Plaintiff's claim. (Defendant's Memorandum of Law in Support of the Commissioner's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings ("Def.'s Mem.") at 2.)

On August 17, 2010, the Appeals Counsel denied Plaintiff's request for a review of the ALJ's decision, making it the "final decision" of the Commissioner. (Def.'s Mem. at 2.) On October 7, 2010, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, filed a Complaint with this Court seeking review of the ALJ's decision denying her claim for disability benefits.

On February 2, 2011, Plaintiff submitted a letter requesting that her case be transferred in Memphis, Tennessee. (Endorsed Letter 1, Feb. 2, 2011, ECF No. 12.) On February 7, 2011, the Court, noting that that Plaintiff's appearance would not be necessary for a determination of the action, denied Plaintiff's request to transfer the action to Tennessee. (Id. at 2.)

On February 28, 2011, the Commissioner filed a motion for a judgment on the pleadings. (Def.'s Mem. at 1.) On October 5, 2011, Plaintiff opposed that motion and cross-moved for a judgment on the pleadings. (Notice of Motion, Oct. 7, 2011, ECF No. 21.) On November 18, 2011, the Commissioner submitted a Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings.*fn2

B. Non-Medical Evidence

Plaintiff Ruby E. Laderson was born March 15, 1951, and she was 56 at the alleged onset of her disability. (Def.'s Mem. at 2.) Plaintiff has a college degree and also reports to have taken some graduate courses. (Id.) At the October 20, 2009 hearing before the ALJ, Plaintiff indicated her work history as follows: Plaintiff worked as a bus driver from 2005 to January 11, 2008, the date of the alleged onset of her disability. (Tr. at 28--29.) From 1999 to 2003, Plaintiff worked as a foster care case manager. (Tr. at 29.) From 1995 to 1999, Plaintiff studied for her bachelor's degree. (Id. at 30.) From 1969 to 1992, Plaintiff worked in clerical and administrative services.*fn3

(Tr. at 30.)

Plaintiff also reported that she lived in a women's shelter in Brooklyn. (Tr. at 26.) Plaintiff stated that for the eighteen months prior to the hearing, she sought work at a job center two hours from the shelter. (Tr. at 61.) Plaintiff described herself as "extremely computer literate," indicating that she used a computer to search and apply for jobs. (Tr. at 46.) She reported using public buses and the subway. (Tr. at 61--62.) Plaintiff was able to care for personal needs and make small purchases at the store. (Tr. at 45--46.)

C. Medical Evidence

1. Mount Vernon Hospital Outpatient Clinic

On January and February of 2008, Plaintiff was seen several times at Mount Vernon Hospital's outpatient clinic. (Tr. at 197--229.) Tests from January 11, 2008 indicate that Plaintiff received an electrocardiogram, chest x-rays, and a series of blood tests. (Tr. at 203--07, 210--11.) The abnormal electrocardiogram revealed normal sinus rhythm, left atrial enlargement, poor R wave progression V1-V4, and nonspecific T wave abnormality. (Tr. at 210.) The blood tests revealed abnormalities in Troponin I, B-type natriuretic peptide (BNP) (cardiac marker), metabolic components. (Tr. at 203--07; repeated at Tr. at 224--28.) Plaintiff's chest x-ray showed the heart to be mildly enlarged but with no evidence of consolidation or pulmonary vascular congestion. (Tr. at 211, repeated Tr. at 229.) The doctor's impression was no active pulmonary disease. (Id.)

On January 15, 2008, Plaintiff was seen again at Mount Vernon Hospital with complaints of gradually increasing shortness of breath for the previous five days. (Tr. at 198--201, 218.) The assessment was CHF exacerbation secondary to cardiopathy, rule out previous myocardial infarction, uncontrolled hypertension, type I diabetes mellitus, and dyslipidemia. (Tr. at 201.) Electrocardiogram and echocardiogram tests were prescribed, followed by a cardiology consultation. (Id.) The cardiology consultation report noted that Plaintiff complained of shortness of breath on walking over a block and a half, but there were no complaints of chest pain, palpitations, or diaphoresis (excessive perspiration). (Tr. at 202.) The report noted that Plaintiff's medications were Fosinopril, Lasix, and Vytorin.*fn4 (Id.) The physician advised Plaintiff to take a nuclear stress test. (Id.) Plaintiff refused to add Norvasc to control her blood pressure. (Id.)

On January 23, 2008, Plaintiff's electrocardiogram revealed normal sinus rhythm, poor R wave progression in precordial leads, and nonspecific T wave abnormality. (Tr. at 213.) The echocardiogram report indicated mild mitral regurgitation, borderline left ventricular hypertrophy, a hypokinetic septum, and a left ventricular ejection fraction of 44 percent. (Tr. at 208.) A February 6, 2008 progress record indicates that Plaintiff was seen by a doctor, but left without discharge instructions and her prescription. (Tr. at 222.) On ...

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