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Waleska Velazquez v. Commissioner of Social Security

August 1, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chesler, District Judge



This matter comes before the Court on the appeal by Plaintiff Waleska Velazquez ("Plaintiff") of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") determining that she was not disabled under the Social Security Act (the "Act"). This Court exercises jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and, having considered the submissions of the parties without oral argument, pursuant to L. CIV. R. 9.1(b), finds that the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence and will be affirmed.


On December, 15 2006, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB and SSI benefits pursuant to Sections 216(I), 223, and 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act, codified as 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(I), 423, 1382c(a)(3)(A), respectively. (Tr. 12.) The plaintiff alleges disability based primarily upon diabetes, osteoarthritis, obesity, and an affective disorder. (Id.) The claim was denied initially on August 1, 2007 and upon reconsideration on March 17, 2008. (Id.) Subsequent to Plaintiff's written request for a hearing, dated June 9, 2008, Plaintiff appeared before Administrative Law Judge Donna A. Krappa ("ALJ Krappa") on October 7, 2009, in Newark, New Jersey. (Id.) ALJ Krappa issued a decision on November 3, 2009, finding that Plaintiff was not eligible for DIB or SSI benefits based upon her disabilities. (Tr. 28.) The following is a summary of her findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2010.

2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 22, 2005, the alleged onset date. (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).

3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: diabetes, osteoarthritis, obesity, and an affective disorder. (20 CFR 404.15(c)).

4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525 and 404.1526).

5. The claimant is generally capable of the exertional demands of sedentary work.

6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work. (20 CFR 404.1565).

7. The claimant was born on September 29, 1967, and was 37 years old, which is defined as a younger individual in the age range 18-44, on the alleged disability onset date. (20 CFR 404.1563).

8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English. (20 CFR 404.1564).

9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is "not disabled" whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills.

10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that theplaintiff can perform.


A. Background

Plaintiff, Waleska Velazquez, was born September 29, 1967. She is divorced, and has two children, age 21 and 18. (Tr. 43.) Plaintiff's height is 5' 3" and she testified that her weight is usually around 240 lbs. She attended high school but never completed her GED. (Tr. 285.) Plaintiff worked as a machine operator at EJ Brooks from 1995 to 2005, until her alleged disability rendered her unable to work. (Tr. 46-47.)

B. Claimed Disabilities

Plaintiff stopped working in February 2005, allegedly because of her diabetes, osteoarthritis, obesity, and an affective disorder. (Tr. 48.) Plaintiff testified that due to her arthritis and obesity, her knees and feet are swollen and cause her great pain. (Id.) As a result, she cannot sit or stand for extended periods, nor can she walk more than two blocks at a given time. (Tr. 47-50). The arthritis also causes her right hand to lock up. (Tr. 48.) Plaintiff testified that her eighteen year old son lives with her and does much of the cleaning of the house while her boyfriend does most of the cooking. (Tr. 52.) Plaintiff testified that she has a driver's license and can drive a car, she grocery shops, occasionally sweeps, and frequently attends church. (Tr. 49-54.)

C. Medical Evidence Considered by the ALJ

The record indicates that the Plaintiff has been evaluated by physicians and other experts on several occasions.

1. Dr. Thomas Ortiz's Examination

Plaintiff visited her primary care physician, Dr. Thomas Ortiz of the Forest Hills Family Health Associates, several times between 2004-2008. (Tr. 195-231.) Plaintiff received care for a variety of illnesses. The record indicates that the main concern was Plaintiff's swollen and painful feet, legs, and knees. (Id.) Dr. Ortiz noted that Plaintiff had been hospitalized several times for cellulitis and some minor surgeries. (Id.) Throughout the four ...

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