The opinion of the court was delivered by: Caputo, District Judge.
Plaintiff brought this action on June 3, 1999 claiming the
Social Security Administration's denial of supplemental security
income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, was not
supported by substantial evidence. (Compl., Doc. 1.) Plaintiff
filed his motion for summary judgment on December 15, 1999.
(Doc. 11.) Defendant filed its motion for summary judgment and a
brief in support on February 14, 2000. (Doc. 14.) Magistrate
Judge Thomas M. Blewitt filed his Report and Recommendation on
August 15, 2000 recommending that Plaintiffs motion be denied
and Defendant's motion be granted. ("R. & R." or "Report", Doc.
16.) Plaintiff timely filed objections to the Report, (Pl.'s
Objections to the R. & R., Doc. 17) to which Defendant responded
on September 11, 2000. (Def.'s Response to Pl.'s Objections to
the R. & R. by the Magistrate Judge, Doc. 18.) Because I find
that the determination of the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) was
inconsistent with settled law, the report and recommendation of
Magistrate Judge Blewitt will be adopted in part and not adopted
Plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental Security
Income (SSI) on October 5, 1995 claiming that he was unable to
work since January 23, 1994 due to his disability from arthritis
or tendonitis of the left shoulder, degenerative joint disease
of the left knee, borderline intellectual functioning,
degenerative disc disease of the lumbar and cervical spine, and
thoracic spondylosis. His application was denied initially as
well as on reconsideration. (R. 102-04.) A hearing was requested
and held on May 29, 1997 before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ")
Theodore Burock. The ALJ denied Plaintiffs benefits on January
23, 1998, having found the following, (R. 11-22):
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity at any time relevant to [the
2. The medical evidence establishes that the
claimant has severe impairments consisting of
borderline intellectual functioning, degenerative
disc disease of the lumbar and cervical spine, and
thoracic spondylosis, but that he does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments listed
in, or medically equal to one listed in Appendix
1, Subpart P, Regulations No. 4.
3. The claimant is not fully credible regarding
his subjective complaints and their effect on his
ability to engage in substantial gainful activity.
4. The claimant has a residual functional capacity
to perform a range of light work as defined in
20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) which allows for a sit/stand
option and which is limited to routine, repetitive
5. The claimant is precluded from the performance
of his past relevant work as a custodian.
6. The claimant at all times relevant to [the
ALJ's] decision is a "younger individual".
7. The claimant has a marginal education.
8. In view of the claimant's age, transferability
of work skills is not an issue material to [the
9. In evaluating the claimant under the framework
of the Vocational Regulations and Section 416.969
and Rule 202.17 of Table No. 2, Appendix 2,
Subpart P, Regulations No. 4 and the provisions of
SSR 83-14, a finding of not disabled is
10. The claimant is not disabled at any time
through the date of [the ALJ's] decision
(20 C.F.R. § 416.920(f)).
Thereafter, Plaintiff timely requested review of the decision
of the Administrative Law Judge by the Appeals Council. (R.
8-10.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request. (R. 5-6.)
The decision of the Administrative Law Judge became the final
decision, see Rankin v. Heckler, 761 F.2d 936, 941 (3d Cir.
1985), which is the subject of this appeal presently before the
A magistrate judge's finding or ruling on a motion or issue
should become that of the court unless a specific objection is
filed within the prescribed time. See Thomas v. Am,
474 U.S. 140, 150-53, 106 S.Ct. 466, 472-74, 88 L.Ed.2d 435 (1985).
However, where, as here, objections to the magistrate judge's
report are filed, the district court must conduct a de novo
review of the contested portions of the report, see Sample v.
Diecks, 885 F.2d 1099, 1106 n. 3 (3d Cir. 1989) (citing
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C)), provided the objections are both timely
and specific, see Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6-7 (3d Cir.
making its de novo review, the district court may accept,
reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the factual findings or
legal conclusions of the magistrate judge.
28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Owens v. Beard, 829 F. Supp. 736, 738 (M.D.Pa. 1993)
(McClure, J.). Although the review is de novo, the statute
permits the court to rely on the recommendations of the
magistrate judge to the extent it deems proper. United States
v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 676, 100 S.Ct. 2406, 2413, 65 L.Ed.2d
424 (1980); Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 7 (3d Cir. 1984);
Ball v. U.S. Parole Comm'n, 849 F. Supp. 328, 330 (M.D.Pa.
1994) (Kosik, J.).
As the court's review of the magistrate judge's report is de
novo, the court will review the ALJ's findings and conclusions
under the substantial evidence standard. Fargnoli v.
Massanari, 247 F.3d 34, 38 (3d Cir. 2001). Substantial evidence
is more than a mere scintilla but less than a preponderance, and
has been defined as such evidence as a reasonable person would
accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Id.; Gilliland v.
Heckler, 786 F.2d 178, 183 (3d Cir. 1986). "Substantial
evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasoning mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Cotter v. Harris,
642 F.2d 700, 704 (3d Cir. 1981) (citing Lewis v. Califano,
616 F.2d 73, 76 (3d Cir. 1980); 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)). Substantial
evidence has also been described as enough evidence to withstand
a directed verdict motion where the disputed proposition is one
of fact for the jury. See NLRB v. Columbian Enameling &
Stamping Co., 306 U.S. 292, 300, 59 S.Ct. 501, 505, 83 L.Ed.
660 (1939); Olsen v. Schweiker, 703 F.2d 751, 753 (3d Cir.
Further, as the Third Circuit has explained:
Our decisions make clear that determination vel non
of substantial evidence is not merely a quantitative
exercise. A single piece of evidence will not satisfy
the substantiality test if the [agency] ignores, or
fails to resolve, a conflict created by
countervailing evidence. Nor is evidence substantial
if it is overwhelmed by other evidence — particularly
certain types of evidence (e.g., that offered by
Kent v. Schweiker, 710 F.2d 110, 114 (3d Cir. 1983) (citations
omitted). So far as the ALJ's findings are supported by
substantial evidence, those findings are binding on this court.
Fargnoli, 247 F.3d at 38.
Title II of the Social Security Act provides for the payment
of insurance benefits to persons who have contributed to the
program and who suffer from a physical or mental disability.
42 U.S.C. § 423(a)(1)(D); Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140,
107 S.Ct. 2287, 2290, 96 L.Ed.2d 119 (1987). An applicant for
benefits is disabled under the Act if there is a "`medically
determinable basis for an impairment that prevents him from
engaging in any "substantial gainful activity" for a statutory
twelve-month period.'" Plummer v. Apfel, 186 F.3d 422, 427 (3d
Cir. 1999) (quoting Stunkard v. Sec. Health & Human Servs.,
841 F.2d 57, 59 (3d Cir. 1988)). The Social Security
Administration utilizes a five-step process to determine whether
or not a claimant is disabled: