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Samantha Seeley v. Commissioner of Social Security

October 26, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hon. Glenn T. Suddaby, United States District Judge


Currently before the Court, in this Social Security action filed by Samantha Seeley ("Plaintiff") against the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or "the Commissioner") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c), is Defendant's unopposed motion for judgment on the pleadings. (Dkt. No. 19.) For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is granted.


A. Procedural History

On May 30, 2007, Plaintiff applied for Supplemental Security Income. Plaintiff's application was initially denied, after which she timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("the ALJ"). On August 12, 2009, Plaintiff appeared, pro se, before the ALJ. (T. 24-45.) The ALJ advised Plaintiff of her right to be counseled by an attorney or some representative, but Plaintiff waived that right. (T. 26.) The ALJ issued a written decision finding Plaintiff not disabled under the Social Security Act on October 29, 2009. (T. 15-23.) Thereafter, Plaintiff sought Appeals Council review, with assistance of an attorney. (T. 8.) On May 5, 2011, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (T. 1-5.) Thereafter, Plaintiff, again appearing pro se, timely sought judicial review in this Court. On July 7, 2011, the Court issued Plaintiff a copy of this Court's General Order 18, governing the procedural rules with respect to Social Security appeals.

In accordance with General Order 18, Defendant timely filed an Answer and certified copy of the transcript of administrative proceedings, both of which were delivered to Plaintiff by regular mail. Plaintiff thereafter failed to timely file her brief, despite receiving an extension of the filing deadline and notice that failure to file by the extended date could result in her case being dismissed. Therefore, the Court directed Defendant to file his brief, after which it would decide Plaintiff's appeal in accordance with General Order 18.

Pursuant to General Order 18, plaintiffs are notified that "the failure to file a brief as required by this order will result in the consideration of this appeal without the benefit of plaintiff's arguments and may result in a decision heavily influenced by the commissioner's version of the facts and subsequent dismissal of your appeal." N.D.N.Y. General Order 18.

B. Factual Background

Plaintiff was born on June 20, 1977. She completed regular education through the 8th grade, and was unable to obtain a GED. Plaintiff is able to read and write English. During her life, Plaintiff has had limited work experience, the most recent of which was summer employment at an ice cream store. Generally, Plaintiff's alleged disability consists of spondylolisthesis, morbid obesity, degenerative bone disease, severe asthma, posttraumatic stress disorder, and water retention. Her alleged disability onset date is September 4, 2004.

C. The ALJ's Decision

Generally, in his decision, the ALJ made the following five findings of fact and conclusions of law. (T. 17-23.) First, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her application date. (T. 17.) Second, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's morbid obesity, degenerative disc disease, asthma and post-traumatic stress disorder are severe impairments. (T. 17-18.) Third, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments located in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix. 1. (T. 18-19.) The ALJ considered listings 1.04, 3.03 and 12.06. (Id.) Fourth, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity [("RFC")] to lift and/or carry 10 pounds occasionally, sit six hours in an eight-hour day, stand and/or walk two hours in an eight-hour day, and push and/or pull 10 pounds occasionally. She can occasionally climb and bend, and should avoid concentrated exposure to respiratory irritants. [Plaintiff] can understand, carry out, and remember simple instructions; respond appropriately to supervision, co-workers, and usual work situations; and deal with changes in a routine work setting.

(T. 19-22.) Fifth, and finally, the ALJ determined that, considering Plaintiff's age, education, work experience and RFC, there are jobs that exist in the national economy that she can perform, and therefore, she is not disabled under the Social Security Act. (T. 22-23.)


In support of his motion for judgment on the pleadings, Defendant ...

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