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Jerry Staples v. Michael Astrue

April 18, 2012

JERRY STAPLES, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Jerry Staples challenges the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of disability insurance benefits (DIB), seeking judicial review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).*fn1 (See Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) After reviewing the administrative record and carefully considering the arguments, the court affirms the Commissioner's decision and dismisses Staples' complaint.

II. Background

On November 30, 2006, Staples filed an application for DIB under the Social Security Act ("Act"), alleging disability since July 9, 1998. (Tr.*fn2 at 82.) After his application was denied, Staples requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on January 13, 2009. (See id. at 21, 60, 63.) On August 26, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision denying the requested benefits, which became the Commissioner's final decision upon the Social Security Administration Appeals Council's denial of review. (See id. at 1-5, 10-20.)

Staples commenced the present action by filing a complaint on February 17, 2011, seeking review of the Commissioner's determination. (See Compl.) The Commissioner filed an answer and a certified copy of the administrative transcript. (Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) Each party, seeking judgment on the pleadings, filed a brief. (Dkt. Nos. 16, 19.)

III. Contentions

Staples contends that the Commissioner's decision was the product of the application of improper legal standards and is unsupported by substantial evidence. (See generally Dkt. No. 16.) Specifically, Staples claims that the ALJ erred in: (1) failing to find that his physical and psychological problems constituted a severe impairment; (2) improperly discounting his credibility; and (3) not enlisting the services of a medical expert. (See id. at 5-11.) The Commissioner counters that the ALJ's decision was arrived at through the application of proper legal standards and is supported by substantial evidence.(See generally Dkt. No. 19.)

IV. Facts

The evidence in this case is undisputed and the court adopts the parties' factual recitations. (See Dkt. No. 16 at 1-5; Dkt. No.19 at 2.)

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 of 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 ...


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