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Breyette v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, N.D. New York

June 5, 2014

LAURIE BREYETTE, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

ARTHUR P. ANDERSON, ESQ., Anderson Lamb and Associates PC, Burlington, VT, for the plaintiff.

HON. RICHARD S. HARTUNIAN United States Attorney SIXTINA FERNANDEZ Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Syracuse, NY, Steven P. Conte Regional Chief Counsel Social Security Administration Office of General Counsel, Region II New York, NY, for the defendant.

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

GARY L. SHARPE, Chief District Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Laurie Breyette challenges the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of Supplemental Security Income (SSI), seeking judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Compl., Dkt. No. 1.) After reviewing the administrative record and carefully considering Breyette's arguments, the Commissioner's decision is affirmed and Breyette's complaint is dismissed.

II. Background

On May 26, 2009, Breyette filed an application for SSI under the Social Security Act ("the Act"), alleging disability since July 14, 2003. (Tr.[1] at 124, 167-70.)[2] After her application was denied, ( id. at 125-30), Breyette requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ), ( id. at 132-33), which was held on May 20, 2011, ( id. at 100-23). On August 15, 2011, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision denying the requested benefits, ( id. at 85-99), which became the Commissioner's final determination upon the Social Security Administration Appeals Council's denial of review, ( id. at 1-4).

Breyette commenced the present action by filing her complaint on April 1, 2013, 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. (Dkt. Nos. 9, 10.) Each party, seeking judgment on the pleadings, filed a brief. (Dkt. Nos. 17, 18.)

III. Contentions

Breyette contends that the Commissioner's decision is tainted by legal error and is not supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 17, Attach. 1 at 4-6.) Specifically, Breyette claims that: (1) the ALJ's determination of Breyette's residual functional capacity (RFC) was unsupported by substantial evidence because she failed to make a finding on the frequency and duration of Breyette's need to use the bathroom; and (2) the ALJ committed legal error by failing to obtain the opinion of a vocational expert (VE) in making her step four determination. ( Id. ) The Commissioner counters that the appropriate legal standards were used by the ALJ and her decision is also supported by substantial evidence. (Dkt. No. 18 at 6-9.)

IV. Facts

The court adopts the parties' undisputed factual recitations. (Dkt. No. 17, Attach. 1 at 4; Dkt. No. 18 at 1.)

V. Standard of Review

The standard for reviewing the Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)[3] is well established and will not be repeated here. For a full discussion of the standard and the five-step process by which the Commissioner evaluates whether a claimant is disabled under the Act, the court refers the parties to its previous decision in Christiana v. ...


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