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Laura A. Zadorecky v. Michael J. Astrue

July 19, 2012

LAURA A. ZADORECKY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Charles J. Siragusa United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

U.S. Attorney's Office 100 State Street, Fifth Floor Rochester, NY 14614 INTRODUCTION Siragusa, J. Before the Court is a motion for judgment on the pleadings, ECF No. 15, brought by the Commissioner of Social Security, and a cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings, ECF No. 16, brought by Plaintiff Laura Zadorecky ("Plaintiff"). The issue presented is whether the Commissioner's decision that Plaintiff was not disabled is supported by substantial evidence. For the reasons stated below,the Commissioner's decision is reversed and the matter is remanded.

BACKGROUND

On March 9, 2007, Plaintiff filed applications for Social Security Disability Insurance and Supplemental Security Income Benefits. In both applications, Plaintiff alleges a disability onset date of January 1, 1999. She meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through September 30, 2006. On May 23, 2007, Plaintiff's claims were denied and she requested an Administrative Hearing, which was held on July 9, 2009. In a July 21, 2009, decision, the Administrative Law Judge("ALJ") denied Plaintiff's claims. Plaintiff filed a request for review, which was denied by the Appeals Council on May 4, 2011, making the ALJ's determination the final decision of the Commissioner. On June 9, 2011, Plaintiff filed her appeal to this Court.

The Commissioner alleges that his final decision was supported by substantial evidence. In support of his position, he lays out the five-step sequential analysis required in determining whether or not a claimant is disabled.

Step one requires the ALJ to determine whether the claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b) and 416.920(b). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has not engaged in any substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of January 1, 1999. Record18.

Step two requires the ALJ to determine whether the claimant has a medically determinable impairment or combination of impairments that is "severe." 20 C.F.R. §§ 1520(c) and 416.920(c). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff does have severe impairments, consisting of: Addison's disease, asthma, and status post fracture of the left wrist. Record 18.

Step three requires the ALJ to "determine whether the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments meets or medically equals the criteria of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R § 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926)." Record 17. The ALJ determined that Plaintiff's impairments do not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments. Record 18.

Prior to proceeding to step four, the ALJ must determine the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC). 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e) and 416.920(e). Assessment of a claimant's RFC is "based on all the relevant medical and other evidence in [the] case record." Id.Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the RFC to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) with the following restrictions: no more than frequent use of the left arm, no lifting of more than ten pounds with the left arm alone, no more than occasional climbing, balancing, stopping, kneeling, crouching, or crawling, and no concentrated exposure to respiratory irritants.

Record 19. In making this determination, the ALJ considered Plaintiff's objective complaints, which he found not entirely credible "to the extent that they were inconsistent with the above residual functional capacity assessment." Record 20. In that regard, the ALJ concluded "there [was] absolutely no indication[] that her Addison's disease was anything other than well controlled and asymptomatic after one incident in 1985." Id. Dr. Krishnakumar Rajamani ("Dr, Rajamani"), Plaintiff's Primary Care Physician at Unity Internal Medicine at Cornerstone, "failed to complete the portions of the form asking that he explain how the evidence supported his opinions." Id.Therefore, the ALJ did not give Plaintiff's subjective complaints, or Dr. Rajamani's medical opinion, great weight.

Step four requiresthe ALJ to determine whether the claimant has the RFC to perform the requirements of her past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f) and § 416.920(f). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as a secretary. The ALJ decided, "[i]n comparing the claimant's residual functional capacity with the physical and mental demands of this work, I find that the claimant is able to perform it as actually and generally performed." Record 21. Since the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the RFC to perform her past relevant work, he found that she was not disabled. Therefore, the ALJ was not required to proceed to step five.

In her cross-motion, Plaintiff makes several arguments in support of her position that the ALJ's decision is not based on substantial evidence. Specifically, Plaintiff argues that:

(1) the ALJ improperly rejected the opinions of the treating physicians; (2) the ALJ failed to properly assess her RFC; (3) the ALJ failed to properly analyze her past relevant work; and (4) the ...


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