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Sabria F. Washington, A/K/A Sabrina F. Washington v. Michael J. Astrue

December 5, 2012

SABRIA F. WASHINGTON, A/K/A SABRINA F. WASHINGTON, 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 Sabria F. Washington, also known as Sabrina F. Washington, challenges the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of her claim for Supplemental Security Income (SSI), seeking judicial review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). (See Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) After reviewing the administrative record and carefully considering Washington's arguments, the court affirms the Commissioner's decision.

II. Background

On January 6, 2010, Washington filed an application for SSI under the Social Security Act ("the Act"), alleging disability since December 31, 2008. (See Tr.*fn1 at 103-06, 110.) After her application was denied, (see id. at 42-46), Washington requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), which was held on May 3, 2011, (see id. at 31-34, 48). Washington failed to appear at the hearing, however, and, on May 4, 2011, the ALJ issued a notice to show cause for failure to appear. (See id. at 31-34, 97-98.) Finding no good cause for Washington's failure to appear at the hearing, the ALJ issued a decision on the record exclusive of hearing testimony, which denied the requested benefits. (See id. at 16-30.) That unfavorable decision became the Commissioner's final determination upon the Social Security Administration Appeals Council's denial of review. (See id. at 5-10.)

Washington commenced the present action by filing her Complaint on January 10, 2012 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. 11, 14.)

III. Contentions

Washington contends that the Commissioner's decision is tainted by legal error and is not supported by substantial evidence. (See Dkt. No. 11 at 6-17.) Specifically, Washington claims that: (1) the ALJ failed to properly develop the record; (2) the residual functional capacity (RFC) determination "is unsupported by substantial evidence and is the product of legal error"; (3) her credibility was improperly assessed; and (4) the step five determination "is unsupported by substantial evidence and is the product of legal error." (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. 14 at 4-16.)

IV. Facts

The court adopts the parties' undisputed factual recitations. (See id. at 3; Dkt. No. 11 at 2-4.)

V. Standard of Review

The standard for reviewing the Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)*fn2 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

A. Duty to Develop the ...


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