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Boniella v. Commissioner of Social Security

August 24, 2009


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


Presently before the Court for disposition are cross motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the defendant's motion will be granted and the plaintiff's motion will be denied. An appropriate Order and Judgment will be entered.

On October 2, 2007, David Boniella, acting pro se, filed a complaint pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §405(g) for review of the Commissioner's final determination disallowing his claim for Supplemental Security Income benefits under Sections 1614 and 1631 of the Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §1381 cf.

A protective application for Supplemental Security Income Benefits was filed on May 27, 2005 (R.13). On August 22, 2005, benefits were denied (R.23-27). On October 3, 2005, the plaintiff requested a hearing (R.28-29) and pursuant to that request a hearing was held on March 29, 2007 (R.163-169). In a decision filed on May 10, 2007, an Administrative Law Judge denied benefits (R.10-18), and on June 6, 2007, the plaintiff requested reconsideration of that determination (R.9). On July 27, 2007, the Appeals Council affirmed the prior determination (R.5-7). The instant complaint was filed on October 2, 2007, dismissed on February 27, 2008 for lack of service and remanded on March 13, 2009.

In reviewing an administrative determination of the Commissioner, the question before any court is whether there is substantial evidence in the agency record to support the findings of the Commissioner that the plaintiff failed to sustain his/her burden of demonstrating that he/she was disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389 (1971); Adorno v. Shalala, 40 F.3d 43 (3d Cir. 1994).

It is provided in 42 U.S.C. Section 405(g) that:

The court shall have power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing. The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive....

Substantial evidence is "'more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.' Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)." Richardson v. Perales, supra., at page 401; Plummer v. Apfel, 186 F.3d 422 (3d Cir. 1999).

The purpose of the Supplemental Security Income Program is to provide additional income to persons of limited resources who are aged, blind or disabled persons. 42 U.S.C. §1381; Chalmers v. Shalala, 23 F. 3d 752 (3d Cir. 1994). To be eligible for such benefits, an individual's income must not exceed a certain established maximum and he/she must fulfill certain eligibility requirements.

As set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 416.905(a) disability is defined as: the inability to do any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months. In addition, a person will be considered disabled if he/she is (a) ... permanently and totally disabled as defined under a State plan approved under title XIV or XVI of the Social Security Act, as in effect for October 1972; (b) ... received aid under the State plan ... for the month of December 1973 and for at least one month prior to July 1973; and (c) ... continue[s] to be disabled as defined under the State plan.

20 C.F.R. § 416.907.

A physical or mental impairment is defined in 20 C.F.R. §416.908 as an: impairment [which] result[s] from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which [are demonstrated] by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.

For purposes of determining whether or not the plaintiff met the eligibility requirements, certain evidence was considered by the Commissioner.

At the hearing held on March 29, 2007 (R.163-169), the plaintiff elected not to appear (R.165) and a vocational expert was called upon to testify (R.165-169). The witness concurred that the plaintiff was born on June 14, 1968 and had a college education (R.166-167). She classified the plaintiff's past work experience as sedentary computer related work (R.167). When asked to assume an individual of the plaintiff's age, education, and work history who was able to perform simple, routine, repetitive tasks at any exertional level, the witness testified that such a profile would prevent the ...

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