The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kauffman, District Judge.
Plaintiff, Sharon A. Hirschfeld ("Hirschfeld"), brought this
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 1383(3)(3), seeking
judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration, Defendant Kenneth S. Apfel (the
"Commissioner"), denying her claim for Disability Insurance
Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act,
42 U.S.C. § 401-433. Both Hirschfeld and the Commissioner have
filed motions for summary judgment. The Court designated
Magistrate Judge Arnold C. Rapoport to submit proposed findings
of fact and recommendations for the disposition of Hirschfeld's
appeal. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B); Local
Magistrate Judge Rapoport recommended that the Court deny
Hirschfeld's motion for summary judgment and grant the
Commissioner's motion for summary judgment. Hirschfeld has
objected to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation.
The Court therefore must "make a de novo determination of
those portions of the [Magistrate Judge's] report or specified
proposed findings or recommendations to which objection is
made." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B). Having reviewed the Magistrate
Judge's report and Hirschfeld's objections, the Court will
approve and adopt the Report and Recommendation of the
I. RELEVANT PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Hirschfeld filed an application for Disability Insurance
Benefits on January 16, 1997, alleging that chronic fatigue
syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, Raynaud's syndrome, degenerative
spondylosis, hypotension, and gastrointestinal reflux disorder
(GERD) had rendered her disabled since November 30, 1990. (R. at
18.) After her application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration, (R. at 67, 72), Hirschfeld requested a hearing
before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"), (R. at 75).
ALJ Jonathan L. Wesner held a hearing in this matter on March
4, 1998, during which he heard testimony from the claimant and
from a Vocational Expert, and he reviewed the medical reports on
file. (R. at 17.) Following the hearing, the ALJ found that
Hirschfeld had a high school education and was a "younger
individual" within the meaning of the Regulations. (R. at
22.)*fn1 The ALJ further found that Hirschfeld had a severe
impairment due to chronic fatigue syndrome and mild degenerative
spondylosis, but that she retained the residual functional
capacity to perform a range of sedentary work. (R. at 18, 21.)
Based on these findings, the ALJ concluded that Hirschfeld was
not disabled as defined by the Social Security Act and therefore
was not eligible for disability benefits. (R. at 17, 19.) The
Appeals Council denied Hirschfeld's request for a review of the
ALJ's Decision on November 30, 1999, thus rendering the ALJ's
Decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. at 6.) On
January 31, 2000, Hirschfeld filed this action seeking reversal
of the final decision of the Commissioner.
A. The Commissioner's Decision
Judicial review of a social security case is based upon the
pleadings and the transcript of the record. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). The scope of the Court's review of the Commissioner's
decision is limited to determining whether the Commissioner
applied the correct legal standards and whether the record, as a
whole, contains substantial evidence to support the
Commissioner's findings of fact. Berger v. Apfel,
200 F.3d 1157, 1161 (8th Cir. 2000); Schmidt v. Apfel, 201 F.3d 970,
972 (7th Cir. 2000); Crowley v. Apfel, 197 F.3d 194, 197 (5th
Cir. 1999); Kelley v. Apfel, 185 F.3d 1211, 1213 (11th Cir.
1999); Shepherd v. Apfel, 184 F.3d 1196, 1199 (10th Cir.
1999); Tejada v. Apfel, 167 F.3d 770, 773 (2d Cir. 1999);
Armstrong v. Commissioner of Soc. Sec. Admin., 160 F.3d 587,
589 (9th Cir. 1998); Walters v. Commissioner of Soc. Sec.,
127 F.3d 525, 528 (6th Cir. 1997); Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585,
589 (4th Cir. 1996); Jesurum v. Secretary of the United States
Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 48 F.3d 114, 117 (3d Cir.
1995); see Schaudeck v. Commissioner of Soc. Sec. Admin.,
181 F.3d 429, 431 (3d Cir. 1999) (noting that the circuit court has
plenary review of all legal issues, and reviews the
administrative law judge's findings of fact to determine whether
they are supported by substantial evidence) (citing
Krysztoforski v. Chater, 55 F.3d 857, 858 (3d Cir. 1995)).
"The Court is bound by the ALJ's findings of fact if they are
supported by substantial evidence in the record." Plummer v.
Apfel, 186 F.3d 422, 427 (3d Cir. 1999). "Substantial evidence
`does not mean a large or considerable amount of evidence, but
rather such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept
as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Hartranft v. Apfel,
181 F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir. 1999) (quoting Pierce v. Underwood,
487 U.S. 552, 108 S.Ct. 2541, 101 L.Ed.2d 490 (1988)); see also
Plummer, 186 F.3d at 427 (noting that "substantial evidence"
has been defined as "more than a mere scintilla"). "The court
cannot conduct de novo review of the Commissioner's decision
or re-weigh the evidence of record." Palmer v. Apfel,
995 F. Supp. 549, 552 (E.D.Pa. 1998).
B. The Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation
The Court does review de novo, however, those portions of
the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation to which
Hirschfeld has objected. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).
Therefore, the Court "may accept, reject or modify, in whole or
in part, the findings and recommendations made by the
magistrate." Id. In considering Hirschfeld's objections to the
Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, the Court has
independently reviewed the entire record, including the Report
and Recommendation, the ALJ's written Decision, the transcript
of the hearing, the hearing exhibits, and the summary judgment
Title II of the Social Security Act (the "Act"), 49 Stat. 620,
as amended, provides for the payment of insurance benefits to
persons who have contributed to the program and who suffer from
a disability. 42 U.S.C. § 423(a)(1)(D). "Disability" is defined
as an "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity
by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental
impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has
lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not
less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); see also
20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). The Act further provides that: