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Brown v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. New York

April 7, 2014

CATANYA BROWN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security[1], Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

HUGH B. SCOTT, Magistrate Judge.

Before the Court are the parties' respective motions for judgment on the pleadings (Docket Nos. 17 (plaintiff), 16 (defendant Commissioner)).

INTRODUCTION

This is an action brought pursuant to 42 U.S.C. ยง 405(g) to review the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security that plaintiff is not disabled and, therefore, is not entitled to disability insurance benefits and/or Supplemental Security Income benefits.

PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

The plaintiff ("Catanya Brown" or "plaintiff") filed an application for disability insurance benefits on December 15, 2009. That application was denied initially and on reconsideration. The plaintiff appeared before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), who considered the case de novo and concluded, in a written decision dated September 13, 2011, that the plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on February 13, 2013, when the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's request for review.

Plaintiff commenced this action on April 9, 2013 (Docket No. 1). The parties moved for judgment on the pleadings (Docket Nos. 17, 16). The motions were deemed submitted on February 21, 2014 (Docket No. 19).

FACTUAL BACKGROUND[2]

Ms. Brown was born on March 13, 1981, and has a high school education (R. 28). Her past work included working in collections in 2009, and previously serving as a nurse's aide and performing clerical work. Plaintiff has not worked since the alleged onset date of August 2009 (R. 24) when she stopped working due to becoming sick from the air conditioning (R. 26). Plaintiff had four children, between the ages of 5-13, with another child on the way at the time of the November 2011 hearing before the ALJ (R. 26).

MEDICAL AND VOCATIONAL EVIDENCE

Plaintiff claims disability due to HIV and depression. She tested positive for HIV on January 27, 2006 (R. 243), and was treated from February 6, 2006 to May 4, 2011 (R. 226-49, 278-341, 389-97, 401-49; Docket No. 16, Def. Memo. at 2).

Plaintiff testified that she stopped working because she always got sick and that she did not like to be around people (R. 26). Plaintiff gets counseling and her mother helps her (R. 26), although she could cook, clean, do laundry, and take care of her children (id.). She gets diarrhea as a side effect of her medications. She gets boils on her face, is always tired, feels weak, and lacks energy (R. 26). Plaintiff reports that she started school in January 2011 to become a registered nurse (R. 26).

The ALJ found that her HIV infection level did not reach the level to be deemed a disability. As for her depression, the ALJ found that she did not meet the "paragraph B" criteria for depression under the mental health listings, namely because plaintiff had no restrictions on her daily living; she had only mild (but not marked or worse) social functioning; she had moderate difficulties in concentration, persistence, and pace; and she had no episodes of decomposition. The ALJ also found that there was no presence of "paragraph C" criteria. (R. 25.)

Although plaintiff's medically determinable impairments could be expected to cause the alleged symptoms, the ALJ found that plaintiff's claims of intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of the symptoms are not credible because they are not credible with the medical evidence and the residual functional capacity assessment (R. 26). While plaintiff suffers from HIV infection, her allegations of total disability are not supported by plaintiff's treatment records (R. 26).

Considering plaintiff's testimony and statements concerning her symptoms and limitations, the ALJ found that plaintiff thus had a residual functional capacity to perform light work with limitations, such as that she could only perform simple tasks not involving working closely with others. As a result, the ALJ found that plaintiff was ...


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