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Kreuzberger v. Astrue

June 9, 2008

RACHEL KREUZBERGER, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Chief District Judge

SYNOPSIS

Pending before the Court are Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (Docket Nos. 8 and 12). Both parties have filed Briefs in Support of their Motions. (Docket Nos. 9 and 13). After careful consideration of the submissions of the parties, and for the reasons discussed below, Plaintiff's Motion (Docket No. 8) is denied and Defendant's Motion (Docket No. 12) is granted.

OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff has brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), for review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433, and for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383f.

On February 23, 2005, Plaintiff protectively filed the instant application for DIB and SSI alleging disability since September 1, 2003 due to bipolar disorder, depression, and ADHD. (R. 13, 57-59, 101). Plaintiff's date last insured for purposes of DIB was June 30, 2006. (R. 65). The state agency denied Plaintiff's application. At Plaintiff's request, Administrative Law Judge Patricia C. Henry ("ALJ") held a hearing on June 20, 2006, at which time Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. (R. 203-28). On August 24, 2006, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's application for benefits, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. (R. 13-21, 227). The Appeals Council subsequently denied Plaintiff's request for review of the ALJ's decision.

(R. 5-7). After thus exhausting her administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed this action.

The parties have filed Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff raises four main issues on appeal:

1. Whether the ALJ improperly disregarded the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician and two consultative examiners. See Pl.'s Br. at 6-14.

2. Whether the ALJ erred in concluding that Plaintiff's activities of daily living are inconsistent with her allegations of disability. See id. at 15-17.

3. Whether the ALJ erred in determining that Plaintiff's Obsessive Compulsive Disorder was not severe. See id. at 18-22.

4. Whether the ALJ improperly relied on the vocational expert's response to an inaccurate hypothetical question in concluding that Plaintiff was not disabled. See id. at 23-24.

II. LEGAL ANALYSIS

A. Standard Of Review

The standard of review in social security cases is whether substantial evidence exists in the record to support the Commissioner's decision. Allen v. Bowen,881 F.2d 37, 39 (3d Cir. 1989). Substantial evidence has been defined as "more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate." Ventura v. Shalala,55 F.3d 900, 901 (3d Cir. 1995) (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). Additionally, the Commissioner's findings of fact, if supported by substantial evidence, are conclusive. 42 U.S.C. §405(g); Dobrowolsky v. Califano,606 F.2d 403, 406 (3d Cir. 1979). A district court cannot conduct a 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). To determine whether a finding is supported by substantial evidence, however, the district court must review the ...


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