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Sharon M. Minor v. Michael Astrue

November 28, 2012

SHARON M. MINOR, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Honorable Michael A. Telesca United States District Judge

DECISION and ORDER

INTRODUCTION

Sharon M. Minor ("Plaintiff"), represented by counsel, brings this action pursuant to Title II of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner"), denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB"). Specifically, Plaintiff alleges that the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") did not give proper weight to Plaintiff's treating physician's opinion and failed to properly evaluate her credibility.

The Commissioner moves for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c) on the grounds that the decision of the ALJ was supported by substantial evidence in the record and that Plaintiff was not disabled during the relevant period under review. Plaintiff opposes the Commissioner's motion, and cross-moves for judgment on the pleadings. The Court finds that the decision of the Commissioner is not supported by substantial evidence in the record and contains several legal errors. Therefore, the Commissioner's motion for judgment on the pleadings is denied, and Plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings is granted. The case is reversed and remanded for payment of benefits.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed an application for DIB under Title II of the Act on June 16, 2008, alleging disability since August 1, 2005.*fn1

(T.84-85).*fn2 After the application was denied on October 20, 2008, Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing before an ALJ. Represented by counsel, Plaintiff appeared and testified at the hearing before ALJ Michael Friedman on March 10, 2010. (T.13-23).

In a decision dated March 26, 2010, the ALJ found that the Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act during the full period under review. (T.18-28). In this case, the period under review ran from Plaintiff's alleged onset disability date of August 1, 2005 (T.84), through her date last insured, June 30, 2009. (T.18). Thus, to qualify for benefits, Plaintiff's disability must have begun on or before June 30, 2009. The ALJ found Plaintiff became disabled as of February 12, 2009, her fiftieth birthday. (T.18).

Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ's denial of benefits prior to February 12, 2009. The Appeals Council denied review, and the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on September 8, 2011. (T.1-7). Plaintiff then filed this action.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

A. Non-Medical Evidence

Plaintiff, born in 1959, was forty-six years-old as of the date she alleged onset of disability. She had past relevant work as an assembly line worker and bus driver. (T.111, 114). Plaintiff's testimony regarding her symptoms and limitations is discussed further infra in Section II.B.

B. Relevant Medical Evidence

1. Treating Physician Tedana Wibberley, M.D.

Dr. Wibberley began treating Plaintiff in February 2001.

(T.159, 165, 177). At an October 7, 2005 visit, Plaintiff described experiencing intermittent back pain nearly every day.

(T.177). Straight-leg raising was positive at 45 degrees bilaterally and Plaintiff walked with a wide-based gait. Dr. Wibberley diagnosed chronic pain with a recent flare-up, and ...


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