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Goldie D. Medick v. Michael J. Astrue

November 13, 2012

GOLDIE D. MEDICK, 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

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court, in this action filed by Goldie D. Medick ("Plaintiff") against Social Security Commissioner Michael J. Astrue ("Defendant") for Social Security benefits pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), are the following: (1) Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. No. 11); (2) Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings (Dkt. No. 14); (3) United States Magistrate Judge Andrew T. Baxter's Report-Recommendation, 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 this action be dismissed in its entirety (Dkt. No. 15); and (4) Plaintiff's Objection to the Report-Recommendation (Dkt. No. 16). For the reasons set forth below, Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendations is accepted and adopted in its entirety; Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings is denied; and Defendant's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted.

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. 15, at Part I.)

On July 29, 2009, Plaintiff "protectively filed"*fn1 applications for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under the Social Security Act, claiming disability beginning November 1, 2007, resulting from morbid obesity, vertigo, neurologic problems, diabetes, difficulty sleeping, numbness and pain in both arms and hands, burning and pain in both legs, back pain, and inability to walk without falling down. (See Administrative Transcript ["T."] at 17, 67-68, 77-78, 159-160, 191-196.)*fn2 Plaintiff's applications were initially denied, and she requested a hearing. (T. 17, 80-81.) She appeared and testified at a video hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), Barry Peffley, on December 6, 2010. (T. 17-35.) Vocational expert, Alina Kurtanich, also testified at the hearing.

(T. 49-50, 52-63.) On January 12, 2011, the ALJ issued his decision denying Plaintiff's applications for benefits. (T. at 14-26.) In his decision, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meet or medically equal any of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Id.) On June 2, 2011, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of Defendant. (T. at 1-5.) On July 21, 2011, Plaintiff commenced this action in federal court. (Dkt. No. 1.)

B. Plaintiff's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

Generally, in her motion for judgment on the pleadings, Plaintiff asserts the following four arguments: (1) the ALJ erred at step two of the applicable five-step analysis by failing to find that Plaintiff's unspecified bilateral neuropathy was a severe impairment (Dkt. No. 11 at 12-14 [attaching pages "10" through "12" of Plf.'s Memo. of Law]); (2) the ALJ's residual functional capacity ("RFC") finding was unsupported by substantial evidence and is the product of legal error due to (a) the ALJ's failure to properly weigh the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician Dr. Satterly, (b) the ALJ's failure to properly weigh the opinion of Plaintiff's consultative examiner Dr. Ganesh, (c) the ALJ's failure to apply the psychiatric review technique when making his RFC finding, and (d) the ALJ's failure to provide function-by-function findings (id. at14-21 [attaching pages "12" through "19" of Plf.'s Memo. of Law]); (3) the ALJ misstated the facts and failed to apply the appropriate legal standards in finding Plaintiff not credible (id. at 21-24 [attaching pages "19" through "22" of Plf.'s Memo. of Law]); and (4) the vocational expert's testimony could not provide substantial evidence to support the ALJ's determination of disability (id. at 24-26 [attaching pages "22" through "24" of Plf.'s Memo. of Law]).

C. Defendant's Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

Generally, in his motion for judgment on the pleadings, Defendant argues that his decision that Plaintiff was not disabled during the relevant period (i.e., November 1, 2007, to January 12, 2011) is supported by substantial evidence and should therefore be affirmed for the following four reasons: (1) the ALJ properly found that Plaintiff's unspecified bilateral neuropathy was not a severe impairment (Dkt. No. 14, at 8-11 [attaching pages "6" through "9" of Def.'s Memo. of Law]); (2) the ALJ properly evaluated Plaintiff's RFC in that (a) the ALJ properly evaluated the opinions of Dr. Satterly and Dr. Ganesh, (b) the ALJ applied the psychiatric review technique when he evaluated Plaintiff's mental impairment, and (c) the ALJ performed a function-by-function assessment (id. at 11-20 [attaching pages "9" through "18" of Def.'s Memo. of Law]); (3) the ALJ properly evaluated Plaintiff's credibility (id. at 20-23 [attaching pages "18" through "21" of Def.'s Memo. of Law]); and (4) the ALJ properly relied upon the vocational expert's testimony to conclude that Plaintiff could perform other work (id. at 23-25 [attaching pages "21" through "23" of Def.'s Memo. of Law]).

D. Magistrate Judge Baxter's Report-Recommendation

On June 22, 2012, Magistrate Judge Baxter issued a Report-Recommendation recommending that Defendant's decision denying Plaintiff Social Security benefits be affirmed and the Complaint be dismissed. (Dkt. No. 15, at Part VI.) Generally, in support of his recommendation, Magistrate Judge Baxter found as follows: (1) the ALJ correctly found that Plaintiff's unspecified bilateral neuropathy was not a severe impairment (and, in any event, even if an error existed, it was harmless because the ALJ considered all of Plaintiff's limitations in his ultimate decision; (2) the ALJ properly evaluated Plaintiff's RFC in that (a) the ALJ properly weighed the opinion of Dr. Satterly, (b) the ALJ properly weighed the opinion of Dr. Ganesh, (c) the ALJ applied the psychiatric review technique made his RFC finding, and (c) the ALJ properly performed a function-by-function assessment of Plaintiff's abilities; (3) the ALJ's assessment of Plaintiff's credibility was supported by substantial evidence because he considered the factors relevant to the ...


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