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Emery v. Astrue

December 18, 2008

DENISE M. EMERY PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eduardo C. Robreno, J.

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff Denise M. Emery ("Plaintiff") brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying her application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433, 1381-1383(f). On March 13, 1997, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB, which the Commissioner denied. (Tr. 76, 157.) Plaintiff appealed and was afforded a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (Tr. 84, 86.)

On May 24, 1999, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's DIB claim. (Tr. 36-43.) Plaintiff appealed and the Appeals Council remanded the claim to the ALJ, requiring a more extensive examination of Plaintiff's medical records. (Tr. 90.)

On January 10, 2002, after a second hearing, the ALJ again determined Plaintiff was not entitled to DIB. (Tr. 53.) Plaintiff appealed this decision, and on January 20, 2003, the Appeals Council again remanded the claim to the ALJ for consideration of the updated medical records. (Tr. 110.)

On June 9, 2003, after a hearing conducted by a different ALJ, Plaintiff's DIB claim was denied again. The ALJ found that although Plaintiff's condition limited her ability to perform "the full range of sedentary work, . . . there are a significant number of jobs in the national economy which she could perform." (Tr. 66.)

Plaintiff appealed, and on July 27, 2004, the Appeals Council remanded the claim for a third time, finding that the ALJ did not inquire into possible conflicts between the Vocational Expert's ("VE") evidence and the Dictionary of Occupational Titles ("DOT").

On July 23, 2005, following two additional hearings addressing the Appeals Council's instructions, the ALJ again denied Plaintiff's DIB claim, finding that she was capable of working a significant number of jobs, and thus was not disabled. (Tr. 21.)

Plaintiff appealed again, and on April 18, 2007, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. As a result, the ALJ's findings became the final decision of the Commissioner.

Thereafter, Plaintiff initiated the instant action. This Court referred the case to United States Magistrate Judge Henry S. Perkin for a Report and Recommendation. Judge Perkin recommended that Plaintiff's Request for Review be denied. Plaintiff filed four objections to Judge Perkin's Report and Recommendation, which are presently before the Court.

After careful consideration of the administrative record, the parties' motions for summary judgment, Judge Perkin's Report and Recommendation, and Plaintiff's objections thereto, the Court will overrule Plaintiff's objections and adopt the Report and Recommendation.

I. BACKGROUND

Magistrate Judge Perkin comprehensively recounted the facts and procedural history of this case in his Report and Recommendation (doc. no. 13-2). Therefore, this Court will not engage in a repetitive rendering of the case background.

II. GENERAL PRINCIPLES

This Court undertakes a de novo review of the portions of the Report and Recommendation to which Plaintiff has objected.

28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Cont'l Cas. Co. v. Dominick D'Andrea, Inc., 150 F.3d 245, 250 (3d Cir. 1998). The Court "may accept, reject or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

Decisions of an ALJ are upheld if supported by "substantial evidence." Burns v. Barnhart, 312 F.3d 113, 118 (3d Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 565 (1988) (internal quotations and citation omitted). "It is less than a preponderance of the evidence but more than a mere scintilla." Jesurum v. Sec'y of Health & Human Servs., 48 F.3d 114, 117 (3d Cir. 1995) (citing Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). If the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence, the Court may not set it aside even if the Court would have decided the factual inquiry differently. Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir. 1999) (citations omitted); see also Rutherford v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546, 552 (3d Cir. 2005) ("In the process of reviewing the record for substantial evidence, we may not 'weigh the evidence or substitute [our own] conclusions for those of the fact-finder.'") (quoting Williams v. Sullivan, 970 F.2d 1178, 1182 (3d Cir. 1992)).

Because Magistrate Judge Perkin outlined the standards for establishing a disability under the Social Security Act and summarized the five-step sequential process for evaluating disability claims, the Court will not duplicate these efforts here. Rep. and Recommendation at 3-4; see also Santiago v. Barnhart, No. Civ.A. 03-6460, 2005 WL 851076, at *1 (E.D. Pa. Apr. 12, 2005) ...


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