The opinion of the court was delivered by: ROBRENO
Claimant Stanley Terwilliger contends that, as the result of a lower back injury, he is unable to work and is, therefore, entitled to disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act ("the Social Security Act" or "the Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433. The Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("the Commissioner") denied Mr. Terwilliger's application for benefits at the initial and reconsideration stages. Mr. Terwilliger then requested and was granted a hearing in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ). After a hearing at which Mr. Terwilliger, his wife Karen Terwilliger and a Vocational Expert (VE) testified and various exhibits were submitted, the ALJ found that Mr. Terwilliger was not entitled to benefits.
Citing inadequately supported findings of fact and various errors of law allegedly contained in the ALJ's decision, Mr. Terwilliger requested that the Appeals Council review the ALJ's ruling. That request was denied, thus rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. See Jesurum v. Secretary of the United States Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 48 F.3d 114, 116 (3d Cir. 1995). Mr. Terwilliger next sought review of the Commissioner's final decision in this Court pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
In accordance with the general practice followed in this district, the parties filed cross motions for summary judgment. The Court then referred the matter to a Magistrate Judge for a Report and Recommendation. See Local Rules of the U.S. D.Ct. for the E.D. Pa. 72.1(I)(d)(1)(J); see also 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B).
The Commissioner filed three objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation claiming that the Magistrate Judge (1) "incorrectly applied Social Security Ruling (SSR) 83-12 for the proposition that 'to find that the plaintiff can perform sedentary work, the A.L.J. must find that the plaintiff can sit for most of the day with an occasional interruption of short duration. Such is not the case where he can sit for only 1/2 hour at a time,'" (see Def.'s Objections, doc. no. 13 at 1-4 (emphasis in original) (footnote omitted)); (2) "gave undue weight to the plaintiff's award of workers' compensation," (see Id. at 5-6); and (3) improperly "substituted his judgment for that of the A.L.J.," (see Id. at 6-7). It is these objections which are currently before the Court. For the reasons stated herein, the Court will not adopt the Report and Recommendation and will remand the case to the Commissioner for further proceedings consistent with this Memorandum.
Claimant Stanley Terwilliger was born on August 30, 1956. (See doc. no. 7, R. at 46) After graduating from high school in 1974, claimant received no further formal education. (Id. at 47) From 1975 until 1990, claimant worked in a series of jobs, each of which routinely required him to lift between fifty (50) and one hundred (100) pounds and occasionally required him to lift more than one hundred (100) pounds. (Id. at 49-52) While at these jobs, claimant frequently was required to stand, sit and drive for hours at a time. (Id.)
Claimant alleges disability as of January 10, 1990, when, while lifting a keg of beer in a cramped area, he felt something pull in his back and immediately experienced pain radiating into his buttocks.
(Id. at 182) Claimant's doctors have diagnosed him as suffering from, among other things, a herniated disc in his lower back. (Id. at 269, 279) Claimant received worker's compensation in the amount of $ 614.00 every two (2) weeks from January 20, 1990, until June 1993, when he settled his workers' compensation claim for a lump-sum amount of $ 75,000. (Id. at 53-54) Claimant filed an application for DIB on October 19, 1992, claiming that he was unable to work due to his disabling injury. (Id. at 52)
When reviewing a decision of the Commissioner to deny disability benefits, the district court's role is limited to determining whether the Commissioner properly applied the appropriate legal standards, see Podedworny v. Harris, 745 F.2d 210, 221 n.8 (3d Cir. 1984) ("Our scope of review on matters of law is plenary"), and whether the Commissioner's findings of fact are supported by "substantial evidence." Jesurum, 48 F.3d at 117 (citing Brown v. Bowen, 845 F.2d 1211, 1213 (3d Cir. 1988); see 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is defined as "'such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Jesurum, 48 F.3d at 117 (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S. Ct. 1420, 1427, 28 L. Ed. 2d 842 (1971). "It is less than a preponderance of the evidence but more than a mere scintilla." Id. (citing Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401, 91 S. Ct. at 1427).
The search for substantial evidence "is not merely a quantitative exercise." Kent v. Schweiker, 710 F.2d 110, 114 (3d Cir. 1983) (emphasis in original). Rather, "the administrative decision 'should be accompanied by a clear and satisfactory [explication] of the basis on which it rests.'" Phillips v. Chater, 1996 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11786, 1996 WL 457183 at *4 (D.N.J. June 27, 1996) (quoting Cotter v. Harris, 642 F.2d 700, 704 (3d Cir.), reh'g denied, 650 F.2d 481 (3d Cir. 1981) . "A single piece of evidence will not satisfy the substantiality test if the [Commissioner] ignores, or fails to resolve, a conflict created by countervailing evidence." Kent, 710 F.2d at 114. "All evidence" should be "explicitly weighed." Cotter, 642 F.2d at 706 n.8. (emphasis in original) (citation omitted). As the Third Circuit has stated,
we need from the ALJ not only an expression of the evidence s/he considered which supports the result, but also some indication of the evidence which was rejected. In the absence of such an indication, the reviewing court cannot tell if significant probative evidence was not credited or simply ...