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Catherine Mary Ellis v. Michael J. Astrue

November 8, 2012

CATHERINE MARY ELLIS, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



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

DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court, in this action filed by Catherine Mary Ellis ("Plaintiff") against Commissioner of Social Security Michael J. Astrue ("Defendant") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking Social Security benefits, is the Report-Recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Andrew T. Baxter, issued pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B) and Local Rule 72.3(c) of the Local Rules of Practice for this Court recommending that Defendant's decision be affirmed, and that Plaintiff's Complaint be dismissed. (Dkt. No. 22.)

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Procedural History

Because neither party has filed an Objection to Part I of Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation, which accurately describes the procedural background of this action, the Court adopts that part's description in this Decision and Order, which is intended primarily for the review of the parties. (See generally Dkt. No. 22, at Part I [Report-Rec].)

On March 12, 2010, Plaintiff "protectively filed"*fn1 an application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under the Social Security Act alleging a disability as of July 25, 2009, which left her unable to work.*fn2 (See Administrative Transcript ["T."] at 117-18.)*fn3 Plaintiff's application was denied by the Social Security Administration on May 10, 2010. (T. at 54-59.) Plaintiff requested a hearing and, on April 1, 2010, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") of the Social Security Administration. (T. at 17-46.)

On May 25, 2011, the ALJ issued his decision finding that Plaintiff was not disabled at any time from July 25, 2009 until the date of his decision. (T. at 8-16.) Plaintiff appealed the ALJ's decision to the Social Security Administration's Appeals Council and on August 19, 2011, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of Defendant. (T. at 1-3.) On October 7, 2011, Plaintiff commenced this action in federal court. (Dkt. No. 1.)

Generally, in her brief in support of her Complaint, Plaintiff asserts the following two arguments: (1) the ALJ's residual functional capacity ("RFC") assessment as to Plaintiff's non-exertional limitations caused by her emotional impairments was not supported by substantial evidence, in that (a) the ALJ did not properly assess Plaintiff's treating physician's opinions, (b) the ALJ erroneously failed to find agoraphobia as a severe condition, and (c) the ALJ's credibility finding with respect to Plaintiff's psychiatric and emotional problems was not proper; and (2) the ALJ erred by failing to call upon the services of a vocational expert to assess the effect of Plaintiff's non-exertional limitations. (Dkt. No. 18.)

Generally, in his brief in response to Plaintiff's brief, Defendant disagrees with each of these arguments, and argues that his decision should be affirmed. (Dkt. No. 21.) For example, Defendant argues as follows: (1) the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's mental impairments in determining her RFC; (2) the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's agoraphobia at step two of the applicable five-step process; (3) the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff's subjective symptoms; and (4) vocational expert testimony was not required under the circumstances. (Id.)

B. Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation

On September 7, 2012, Magistrate Judge Baxter issued a Report-Recommendation recommending that Defendant's decision be affirmed, and that Plaintiff's Complaint be dismissed. (Dkt. No. 22, at Part VI.) Generally, in so doing, Magistrate Judge Baxter made the following findings: (1) the ALJ's RFC determination is supported by substantial evidence and is consistent with the findings of Plaintiff's treating physicians; and (2) consultation with a vocational expert was not necessary since the ALJ properly concluded that Plaintiff's mental impairments did not affect her ability to perform basic sedentary work. (Id.)

Neither party filed an Objection to the Report-Recommendation, and the deadline by which to do so has expired. (See generally Docket Sheet.)

II. APPLICABLE LEGAL STANDARDS

A. Standard of Review of Magistrate Judge Baxter's ...


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