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Reid v. Astrue

August 28, 2009

JAMES REID, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM

Plaintiff James A. Reid ("Plaintiff") brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3), which incorporates 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) by reference, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying his application for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") provided under Title II of the Social Security Act ("the Act"). Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment, Defendants responded thereto and the case was referred to United States Magistrate Judge, Henry S. Perkin for a Report and Recommendation.

Magistrate Judge Perkin recommended that the relief sought by Plaintiff be denied and the Commissioner's decision affirmed. Following consideration of Plaintiff's objections to the Report and Recommendation and Defendant's responses thereto, the Court overrules Plaintiff's objections, approves and adopts the Report and Recommendation, and denies Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on February 1, 2006, alleging disability beginning on January 1, 2006, due to inguinal hernia and a mood disorder. (Tr. 13.) On May 3, 2006, this application was denied at the initial review level. (Tr. 39-43.) On May 15, 2006, Plaintiff filed a timely request for a hearing before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), Christine McCaffery; the hearing was held September 10, 2007. (Tr. 164-90.) Plaintiff was represented by counsel from Community Legal Services, Inc.*fn1 He testified at the hearing, (Tr. 162), as did William T. Slaven, III, a court appointed vocational expert ("VE"). (Tr. 186-89.) Following the hearing, at the request of Plaintiff's counsel, the ALJ allowed the record to remain open for an additional thirty days, so that Plaintiff could supplement the record with further evidence. (Tr. 189-90.) No additional evidence was submitted.

The ALJ denied Plaintiff's application for DIB on October 17, 2007, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. Specifically, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was able to perform his past relevant work as a vendor, security guard, packager, janitor, and dishwasher. (Tr. 10-19.) In addition, the ALJ found that even if Plaintiff was unable to return to his past relevant work, he would still be able to successfully adjust to a significant number of jobs in the national and regional economy. (Id.) On December 17, 2007, Plaintiff filed a timely request for review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 6.) The Appeals Council denied this request on March 14, 2008. (Tr. 4-5.)

On May 16, 2008, Plaintiff initiated this action, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision, denying Plaintiff's application for DIB.*fn2 This Court referred the case to Magistrate Judge Perkin for preparation of a Report and Recommendation. Judge Perkin recommended that Plaintiff's Request for Relief be denied. Plaintiff filed three objections to Judge Perkin's Report and Recommendation, which are presently before the Court.

II. APPLICABLE LAW

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 should be affirmed 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) ("[i]n 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. (R&R at 3-4); see also Santiago v. Barnhart, 367 F. Supp. 2d 728 (E.D. Pa. 2005) (Robreno, J.) (outlining the standards and five-step sequential process for evaluating disability claims).

III. DISCUSSION

Plaintiff objects to the Report and Recommendation, arguing that the Magistrate Judge committed reversible error by finding: (1) the ALJ properly determined that Plaintiff's mental impairment did not meet the "C" criteria section of 12.04 of the Mental Listings*fn3 (Pl.'s Objs. 5); (2) the ALJ evaluated all relevant evidence and did not reject evidence without explanation (Pl.'s Objs. 9); and (3) the hypothetical question posed to the VE was not ...


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