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Carter v. Astrue

July 8, 2008

RICKY D. CARTER, JR., PLAINTIFF
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT



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

(Magistrate Judge Smyser)

ORDER

BACKGROUND

On December 13, 2007, plaintiff Ricky D. Carter, Jr. commenced this civil action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Carter 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 Judge J. Andrew Smyser.

On June 20, 2008, the magistrate judge filed a twenty-page report and recommendation. (Rec. Doc. No. 10.) The magistrate judge found that the ALJ's decision to deny benefits was not based on substantial evidence and recommended that the appeal be granted and the case remanded to the Commissioner for further consideration. (Id. at 20.)

On July 2, 2008, defendant filed objections to the report and recommendation. (Rec. Doc. No. 11.) For the following reasons, we will adopt the magistrate judge's report and recommendation in its entirety, grant plaintiff's appeal, and remand the case to the Commissioner for further consideration.

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. Id.

The instant action was ultimately decided at the fourth step. First, the ALJ concluded that plaintiff was not engaged in substantial gainful activity and that he had severe impairments of diabetes, hypertension, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, gout, obesity, and chronic kidney disease. (Tr., Rec. Doc. No. 7, at 14.) Yet, none of these severe impairments met or equaled a listed impairment. (Id.) The ALJ then concluded plaintiff had the residual functioning capacity to perform a limited range of light work activity and is capable of returning to his past relevant work as a packager and order puller. (Id. 16.) The ALJ further concluded that based on this residual functioning capacity, plaintiff would also be capable of performing other work ...


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