Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Carmen Michele Valguarnera v. Michael J. Astrue

November 28, 2012

CARMEN MICHELE VALGUARNERA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. 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 Carmen Michele Valguarnera challenges the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (DIB), seeking judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (See Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) After reviewing the administrative record and carefully considering Valguarnera's arguments, the court reverses and remands the Commissioner's decision.

II. Background

On December 29, 2006, Valgaurnera filed an application for DIB under the Social Security Act ("the Act"), alleging disability since June 30, 2006. (See Tr.*fn1 at 144-50.) After her application was denied, (see id. at 89-96), Valgaurnera requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on February 20, 2009, (see id. at 43-69, 97-98). On April 2, 2009, the ALJ issued a decision denying the requested benefits. (See id. at 71-81.) Upon review by the Social Security Administration Appeals Council, the matter was remanded to the ALJ with specific instructions for his consideration. (See id. at 82-85.) A second hearing was conducted before the ALJ on February 4, 2011, and another unfavorable decision followed on March 24, 2011. (See id. at 12-26, 27-42.) That decision became the Commissioner's final determination upon the Appeals Council's denial of review. (See id. at 1-6.)

Valgaurnera commenced the present action by filing her Complaint on November 9, 2011 wherein she sought review of the Commissioner's determination. (See generally Compl.) The Commissioner filed an answer and a certified copy of the administrative transcript. (See Dkt. Nos. 8, 9.) Each party, seeking judgment on the pleadings, filed a brief. (See Dkt. Nos. 17, 20.)

III. Contentions

Valgaurnera contends that the Commissioner's decision is tainted by legal error and is not supported by substantial evidence. (See Dkt. No. 17 at 16-26.) Specifically, Valgaurnera claims that: (1) "[t]he ALJ failed to combine the effects of [her] impairments;" (2) her depression was not combined with her other impairments, and the ALJ misapplied relevant case law and regulations regarding her depression; (3) the ALJ erred by not completing a function by function assessment; (4) "[t]he ALJ failed to obtain evidence from a [m]edical [a]dvisor to determine whether [her] impairments at least equaled the Listings of Impairments"; (5) her credibility was improperly evaluated; and (6) the ALJ wrongly evaluated her ability to perform past work. (See id.) The Commissioner counters that the appropriate legal standards were used by the ALJ and his decision is supported by substantial evidence. (See Dkt. No. 20 at 4-12.)

IV. Facts

The court adopts the parties' undisputed factual recitations. (See Dkt. No. 17 at 1-14; Dkt. No. 20 at 1.)

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 *1-3 (N.D.N.Y. Mar. 19, 2008).

VI. Discussion

Among several other arguments, Valguarnera first asserts that the ALJ failed to consider or evaluate the combined effects of all of her impairments, including those that are not severe. (See Dkt. No. 17 at 16-18.) In particular, Valguarnera contends that the ALJ overlooked several diagnosed ailments-namely, Chiari I malformation, trigger finger, and neural foraminal stenosis at C6/7-and did not consider them at any point during the sequential evaluation process. (See id. at 17-18.) The Commissioner argues in opposition that, because none of the impairments that the ALJ failed to discuss caused demonstrable symptoms or "functional limitations ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.