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Sponenberg v. Astrue

June 16, 2008

CRYSTAL A. SPONENBERG, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: McClure, J.

Magistrate Judge Mannion

ORDER

BACKGROUND

On July 17, 2007, plaintiff Crystal A. Sponenberg commenced this civil action under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g). Sponenberg appeals the Commissioner's decision to deny disability benefits and asserts that the Commissioner's decision was not supported by substantial evidence.

The matter was initially referred to United States Magistrate Malachy E. Mannion.

On April 3, 2008, Magistrate Judge Mannion filed a fourteen-page report and recommendation. (Rec. Doc. No. 10.) In his report, the magistrate judge concluded that the ALJ's conclusion was supported by substantial evidence and recommended denying plaintiff's appeal. (Id.)

On April 15, 2008, plaintiff filed objections to the report and recommendation. (Rec. Doc. No. 11.) On April 24, 2008, defendant filed a response to plaintiff's objections. (Rec. Doc. No. 12.) For the following reasons, we will decline to adopt the magistrate judge's report and recommendation and will grant plaintiff's appeal and remand the case to the Commissioner for further proceedings.

DISCUSSION

I. Standard of Review

We have jurisdiction to hear this claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Our role is to determine whether there is substantial evidence in the administrative record to support the Commissioner's decision and findings of fact. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Plummer v. Apfel, 186 F.3d 422, 427 (3d Cir. 1999). "Substantial evidence means 'such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.'" Jones v. Barnhart, 364 F.3d 501, 503 (3d Cir. 2004) (quoting Jesurum v. Sec'y of the U.S. Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 48 F.3d 114, 117 (3d Cir. 1995) (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). "It is less than a preponderance of the evidence but more than a mere scintilla." Id. The substantial evidence standard is a deferential standard of review. Id.

A district court reviews de novo those portions of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which a party objects. L.R. 72.3. The court may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." Id.

II. Analysis

There is a five-step evaluation process to determine whether an individual is disabled for purposes of Supplemental Security Income disability benefits. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. The Commissioner must sequentially determine: (1) whether the applicant is engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) whether the applicant has a severe impairment; (3) whether the applicant's impairment meets or equals a listed impairment; (4) whether the applicant's impairment prevents the applicant from performing past relevant work; and (5) whether the applicant's impairment prevents the applicant from doing any other work, taking into consideration the applicant's residual functional capacity, age, education and work experience.

The instant action was ultimately decided at the fifth step of the evaluation process. The ALJ concluded that plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity to perform work at the sedentary exertional level with certain restrictions, and that such work existed in ...


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