United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Western Division
STACEY L. SNELLER, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
MARK W. BENNETT, District Judge.
This case is before me on a Report and Recommendation (R&R) from Magistrate Judge Leonard Strand, entered on November 7, 2013 (docket no. 19). In the R&R, Judge Strand recommends that I affirm a decision by the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner) denying plaintiff Stacey Sneller (Sneller) disability benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq. Sneller timely filed objections to the R&R (docket no. 20), which the Commissioner opposes (docket no. 21). For the reasons discussed below, I adopt the recommendations in the R&R and affirm the Commissioner's decision to deny Sneller benefits.
A. Procedural Background
Judge Strand summarized this case's procedural background as follows:
Sneller protectively filed for DIB and SSI on July 14, 2009, alleging disability beginning on February 5, 2005,  due to anxiety, depression, social disorder and atypical psychotic disorder. AR 192, 196. Her claims were denied initially and on reconsideration. AR 64-67. Sneller requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). AR 89-90. On May 23, 2011, ALJ Ronald Lahners held a hearing, but cancelled and postponed it when he discovered the medical evidence was not up to date. AR 58-63. He held another hearing on October 18, 2011, during which Sneller and a vocational expert testified. AR 25-57.
On November 4, 2011, the ALJ issued a decision finding Sneller not disabled since December 9, 2007. AR 10-18. Sneller sought review of this decision by the Appeals Council, which denied review on October 22, 2012. AR 1-3. The ALJ's decision thus became the final decision of the Commissioner. AR 1; see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481.
(Docket no. 19, at 1-2). On December 27, 2012, Sneller filed a complaint in federal court, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision.
B. ALJ's Determinations
Judge Strand thoroughly summarized the ALJ's determinations regarding Sneller's alleged disability. "[Sneller] does not object to [this] background information" (docket no. 20, at 5). Thus, I adopt Judge Strand's summary of the ALJ's determination, which is set forth below.
The ALJ made the following findings:
(1) The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2011.
(2) The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 9, 2007, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et seq. )
(3) The claimant has the following severe impairments: anxiety and paranoia. (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c))
(4) The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926)
(5) After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to occasionally lift and carry up to 20 pounds and 10 pounds frequently. She can sit and stand for up to 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. However, she would need the opportunity to alternate positions at least hourly. She can occasionally bend, stoop and kneel. She is moderately limited in the ability to interact with the general public, co-workers and supervisors. She would be moderately limited in the ability to complete work in a timely manner. Moderate is defined as imposes a problem but does not preclude satisfactory work. The work she is performing on her night shift would best fit within this residual functional capacity. Work such as a greeter at Wal-Mart would require too much social interaction.
(6) The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work. (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965)
(7) The claimant was born on July 28, 1964 and was 40 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date. (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963)
(8) The claimant completed two years of college at Northwestern and one and a half years at a technical college and is able to communicate in ...