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Coren v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

May 25, 2017

Doris Coren, Plaintiff,
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM & ORDER

          Nathaniel M. Gorton United States District Judge

         Plaintiff Doris Coren (“Coren” or “plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the denial of her application for disability benefits by defendant, Carolyn W. Colvin (“the Commissioner”), in her official capacity as Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”). Pending before the Court are 1) plaintiff's motion for judgment on the pleadings to reverse the Commissioner's decision and 2) defendant's motion for an order affirming her decision. For the reasons that follow, plaintiff's motion to reverse the Commissioner will be denied and the Commissioner's motion to affirm will be allowed.

         I. Background

         A. Employment History and Alleged Disability

         Doris Coren was born on July 7, 1965. She has a tenth or eleventh grade education, has three adult children and is unmarried. She has been unemployed for 15 years and her main source of income is government assistance. Coren filed an application for supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et seq., in April, 2012, alleging that she is disabled because of peripheral neuropathy, lower back pain, alcohol abuse disorder, hypertension, obesity, major depressive disorder, intellectual disorder and anxiety disorder.

         B. Procedural Background

         Coren's initial application for disability benefits was denied in July, 2012, and, upon reconsideration, was denied again in November, 2012. She filed a request for a hearing and review of the SSA's decision in December, 2012. That hearing was held in November, 2013, before Administrative Law Judge Henry Hogan (“the ALJ”). In January, 2014, the ALJ found Coren to be not disabled.

         In denying Coren disability benefits, the ALJ applied the five-step test provided in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a) and, with respect to the fifth step, found that Coren was not entitled to disability benefits.[1] The ALJ relied upon the testimony before him during the disability hearing as well as several exhibits entered into the record which contain medical reports from doctors and health professionals.

         The ALJ deemed that Coren was not engaged in substantial gainful activity but was severely impaired as a result of her peripheral neuropathy, lower back pain, alcohol abuse disorder, major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder and unspecified learning disorder. He then found, at step three of the analysis, that her impairments did not meet or equal the severity of those enumerated in Appendix 1 of 20 C.F.R. § 404 Subpart P (“§ 404 Impairments”).

         At step four, the ALJ concluded that Coren had a residual functional capacity (“RFC”) of “light work” with additional restrictions of 1) occasionally climbing stairs or ramps, 2) occasionally stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling and 3) occasionally using her right arm for “fine manipulation” and 4) performing only one to two-step tasks. The ALJ also noted that she did not have any past work experience to which she could adjust.

         Finally, to determine if there were jobs in the general economy that Coren could hold, the ALJ relied upon the testimony of vocational expert Dr. Robert Laskey (“Dr. Laskey”). Dr. Lasky identified three occupations suitable for her: a garment sorter (2, 400 jobs in Massachusetts), a laundry worker (9, 000 jobs in Massachusetts) and a shipping and receiving weigher (360 jobs in Massachusetts). Citing Dr. Lasky's testimony, the ALJ concluded that Coren was not disabled because there were several kinds of jobs in the economy that she could perform.

         Coren timely appealed the ALJ's decision but it was upheld in February, 2015, by the Appeals Council. She then filed her complaint in this Court in September, 2015, alleging that the ALJ failed to consider pertinent evidence and did not perform the required analyses.

         II. The Parties' Motions

         A. ...


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