disabled; and (5) if the claimant
cannot perform their past relevant work, their residual functional
capacity will be considered to see if the claimant can perform other
work, if they cannot then they will be considered disabled. See
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b)-(f)(West 2001); see also Fargnoli, 247 F.3d
at 39 (quoting Plummer, 186 F.3d at 428). The original burden is on the
claimant to establish the existence of an impairment and its severity.
See 42 U.S.C.A. § 423(d)(5)(A); see also Fargnoli, 247 F.3d at 39
(quoting Plummer, 186 F.3d at 428). However, once that burden is met by
showing an inability to return to the claimant's former employment, the
burden shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant has the
ability to perform specific jobs that exist in the national economy. See
Fargnoli, 247 F.3d at 39 (quoting Plummer, 186 F.3d at 428.
C. The Motions Pending Before the Court
Applying the five-step sequential analysis, the ALJ found that the
Plaintiff was not disabled. (R. 33). The ALJ determined that the
Plaintiff's medically determinable impairments did not meet the severity
of a listed impairment but they did preclude performance of her past work
functions. (R. 19, 33). Therefore, the burden shifted to the Social
Security Administration to establish that the Plaintiff can perform
specific jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy.
The ALJ found that based upon the Plaintiff's exertional capacity for
light work, and her age, educational background, and work experience, she
is capable of adjusting to work such as small parts assembly,
inspector-small parts, gate attendant, hand packer, and office helper.
(R. 33). Therefore, the ALJ determined that a finding of "not disabled"
was warranted. (R. 33).
The Plaintiff objects to the ALJ's decision on several grounds. First,
the Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ impermissibly disregarded the
testimony of examining medical and psychological experts as well as the
testimony of family members. See Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. Jud. at 12, 26. In
addition, the Plaintiff contends that the ALJ failed to discuss the
testimony of the vocational expert which supported a finding of
disabled. See Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. Jud. at 16. The Plaintiff also
contends that the ALJ did not address the medical evidence suggesting
that the Plaintiff's spine injury met the severity of a listed impairment
and that the ALJ improperly failed to secure medical testimony regarding
the onset date of the Plaintiff's psychiatric disability. See Pl.'s Mot.
for Summ. Jud. at 19, 22. Finally, according to the Plaintiff, the ALJ
improperly refused to review the unlawful termination of Plaintiff's
benefits in 1979. See Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. Jud. at 28.
The Commissioner concedes that the ALJ's decision did not follow the
proper procedures for confronting and discrediting evidence they find
unconvincing. See Def.'s Mot. for Remand at 5. For this reason, the
Commissioner seeks a remand for further evaluation of the Plaintiff's
disability claim. See Def.'s Mot. for Remand at 5. Specifically, the
Commissioner asserts that upon remand the Plaintiff's condition will be
evaluated to determine if it meets the severity of a listing, if the
condition should have been considered disabling at step five, if there
was good cause for the Plaintiff's untimely assertion of her rights under
the Kuehner class action, and to secure medical testimony regarding the
onset date of the Plaintiff's psychiatric disability. See Def.'s Mot. for
Remand at 3.
The Court should direct a verdict for the claimant as opposed to remand
"only when the administrative record of
the case has been fully developed
and when substantial evidence on the record as a whole indicates that the
claimant is disabled and entitled to benefits." Podedworny v. Harris,
745 F.2d 210, 221-22 (3d Cir. 1984). In this case, the parties and the
Court agree that the administrative record is deficient regarding an
evaluation of the severity of the Plaintiff spine condition, the
necessary testimony to establish the onset of Plaintiff's psychiatric
disability, and the Plaintiff's failure to timely assert her rights as
part of the Kuehner class. Upon remand, evidence can be adduced which is
currently not in the record which would clarify the Plaintiff's rights
pursuant to the Kuehner class action as well as the onset date of her
psychiatric disorder. In addition, the Commissioner can properly evaluate
the severity of the Plaintiff's spine injury.
Therefore, the Court will remand this case for additional
In addition, the Court also finds that, on remand, the ALJ should
articulate more clearly the reasons for his rejection of the medical and
family testimony. The ALJ is required to set forth the reasons for his
decision and the Court finds that in this case the ALJ's unsupported
rejection of the medical and psychological testimony is beyond meaningful
judicial review. See Burnett v. Commissioner of Soc. Sec. Admin.,
220 F.3d 112, 119 (3d Cir. 2000). After discussing the reports of the six
evaluating medical and psychological experts which all seem to indicate
that the Plaintiff is disabled, the ALJ states that the opinions of
disability are not accepted as they are contravened by the opinions of
other treating and examining physicians who reported that the Plaintiff
had the ability to return to work. (R. 24, 25, 28, 29). However, the only
evidence which supports the Plaintiff's ability to return to work seems
to be the opinion of the Director of Rehabilitation Services and the
Plaintiff's speech pathologist. (R. 30). It is unclear why this evidence
is more compelling than that of the other six medical and psychological
professionals who evaluated the Plaintiff.
Because the Court finds that the administrative record is not fully
developed regarding specific issues relevant to the determination of
disability in this case, the Court will grant the Commissioner's motion
to remand for further administrative proceedings consistent with this
memorandum. As a result, the Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment is
An appropriate Order follows.
AND NOW, this 31st day of May, 2001, upon consideration of the
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgement (Docket No. 7), the Defendant's
Motion for Remand (Docket No. 14), and the Plaintiff's Reply Brief in
Support of their Motion for Summary Judgement (Docket No. 15), IT IS
HEREBY ORDERED that:
(1) the Plaintiff's Motion is DENIED and
(2) the Defendant's Motion is GRANTED
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the above titled action is REMANDED to the
Social Security Administration for further proceedings.
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