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Jackson v. Astrue

September 29, 2009

ILEAN JACKSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHEAL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Greenaway, Jr., U.S.D.J.

OPINION

Plaintiff, Ilean Jackson ("Plaintiff"), pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g),*fn1 seeks review of the Social Security Commissioner's (the "Commissioner") decision denying her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI")*fn2 and Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB").*fn3 Plaintiff asserts that the Commissioner's decision is not supported by substantial evidence, as required by § 405(g), and that the Commissioner erred in law and in fact when denying Plaintiff's applications. For reasons set forth below, this Court finds that the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence and shall be affirmed.

I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On March 5, 1996, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB and SSI, claiming disability due to high blood pressure, substance abuse, liver problems, hepatitis B, and breathing problems. (Tr.*fn4 11.) Subsequently, Plaintiff's applications were denied at both the initial and reconsideration levels. (Tr. 60-77, 86-99; Compl. ¶ 5.) On October 1, 1997, Plaintiff timely filed a request for a hearing before an administrative law judge. (Tr. 305-09.) Plaintiff appeared before Administrative Law Judge Michael H. Noorigian ("ALJ Noorigian"). (Id.) On April 29, 1998, ALJ Noorigian issued a decision, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled as of November 29, 1994. (Tr. 8-18; Compl. ¶ 5.) Plaintiff sought review by the Appeals Council (the "Council"). (Tr. 6-7; Compl. ¶ 6.) On December 2, 2002, the Council remanded the case for further administrative proceedings.*fn5 The Council determined that Plaintiff's file would benefit from further development (Id.)

On April 2, 2003, ALJ Noorigian held a hearing, pursuant to the Council's remand. (Tr. 358; Compl. ¶ 6.) On June 24, 2003, ALJ Noorigian again found that Plaintiff was not disabled. (Tr. 346-56; Compl. ¶ 6.) Plaintiff appealed ALJ Noorigian's decision a second time. (Tr. 338-42.) On September 11, 2004, the Council determined that it lacked jurisdiction to review ALJ Noorigian's decision. (Tr. 335-42.) On September 7, 2006, however, the Council remanded the case after determining that ALJ Noorigian's ruling did not: use substantial evidence to come to his decision; properly assess the Acquiescence Ruling 01-01(3); properly assess her residual functional capacity ("RFC");*fn6 or properly assess Plaintiff's subjective complaints of pain. (Tr. 441-43; Compl. ¶ 6.)

On January 23, 2007, Plaintiff appeared before Administrative Law Judge Richard L. DeSteno ("ALJ DeSteno") for a third hearing. (Id.) On January 25, 2007, ALJ DeSteno determined that Plaintiff had an RFC of sedentary work,*fn7 and was, therefore, ineligible for DIB and SSI. (Tr. 417-18.) ALJ DeSteno made the following findings:

1. The claimant met the disability insured status requirements of the Act on November 29, 1995, the date the claimant stated she became unable to work, and continued to meet them through March 31, 2000, but not thereafter.

2. The claimant did not engage in substantial activity during the period at issue.

3. The medical evidence establishes that the claimant had a mood disorder, which did not impose any significant work-related limitations, and, therefore, was "not severe". The claimant also has a combination of severe impairments including hypertension and obesity, but she does not have an impairment or combination of impairments listed in, or medically equal to one listed in Appendix 1, Subpart P, Regulations No. 4.

4. The claimant's allegations were evaluated under the criteria established in Social Security Ruling 96-7p, as well as 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1529 and 416.929, and cannot be accepted as fully credible in light of the total record.

5. The claimant had the residual functional capacity during the period at issue, to perform work involving lifting and carrying objects weighing up to 10 pounds; sitting up to six hours, and standing and walking up to two hours in an eight-hour day; not requiring prolonged walking/standing; not requiring frequent bending, reaching, climbing, stooping, squatting, and pushing/pulling of leg and arm controls; and not involving exposure to dust, gases, fumes, and other pulmonary irritants (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545 and 416.945).

6. The claimant was unable to perform her past relevant work as a teacher's aide.

7. The claimant's residual functional capacity for the full range of sedentary work is reduced by the above-enumerated non-exertional limitations.

8. The claimant was a "younger individual" during the period at issue (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1563 and 416.963).

9. The claimant has a "limited" (eleventh grade) education (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1564 and 416.964).

10. Based on an exertional capacity for sedentary work, and the claimant's age, education, and past work experience, Section 404.1569 of Regulations No. 4 and Section 416.969 of Regulations No. 16 and Rule 201.18, Table No. 1 of Appendix 2, Subpart P, Regulations No. 4 would direct a conclusion of "not disabled".

(Tr. 419.)

Based on these findings, ALJ DeSteno concluded that Plaintiff was "not entitled to a period of disability, Disability Insurance Benefits, and not eligible for Social Security Income payments under Sections 1602 and 1614(a)(3)(A), respectively, of the Social Security Act for the time period [in question]." (Tr. 420.) On April 18, 2008, Plaintiff sought review by the Appeals Council. (Tr. 403.) On May 29, 2008, the Council upheld ALJ DeSteno's decision. (Tr. 403-05; Compl. ¶ 8.) On July 21, 2008, Plaintiff sought review in this Court. (Docket Entry No. 1.)

II. STATEMENT OF FACTS

A. Background

Plaintiff Ilean Jackson was born July 17, 1953. (Tr. 25, 56.) She has a eleventh grade education. (Tr. 26.) From 1990 to 1994, she worked as a teacher's aide at a child care facility. (Tr. 27, 121-23.) Previously, Plaintiff worked as a shipping supervisor. (Tr. 28-29, 121-23.) During her tenure as a shipping supervisor, Plaintiff supervised assembly line workers, and occasionally worked on the assembly line herself.*fn8 (Id.)

At the October 1, 1997 hearing before ALJ Noorigian, Plaintiff complained of heart problems and swelling to her face, hands, legs, and feet. (Tr. 32, 35.) Plaintiff also complained of memory problems. (Tr. 34.) Plaintiff stated that she has pain in her back, which requires the use of a cane. (Tr. 35, 41.) She further testified at the hearing that she takes medication for depression and she becomes fatigued. (Tr. 43.) Plaintiff stated that she had breathing problems and hepatitis B. (Tr. 45.) Plaintiff testified that she had difficulty walking more than a block or standing five to ten minutes before her feet swell. (Tr. 34.)

B. Medical Evidence

1. Newark Beth Israel Medical Center

From November 30, 1994 to December 6, 2004, Plaintiff was admitted to Newark Beth Israel Medical Center for hypertension*fn9 and probable heart failure. (Tr. 125-64.) A thallium study, performed on Plaintiff, revealed "diffusely increased activity in both lung fields." (Tr. 139.) On December 4, 1994, Dr. Monroe Karetzky reported the results of Plaintiff's radiologic consultation, stating that Plaintiff did not have an enlarged heart, but had "mild central pulmonary venous prominence associated with bilateral atelactatic ...


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