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Young v. Astrue

May 26, 2010

RANDOLPH YOUNG, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM RE: SOCIAL SECURITY APPEAL

Plaintiff, Randall Young, seeks judicial review of the decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the "Commissioner") denying his application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits ("SSDI") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-83(c) (2000). Jurisdiction is established under § 1383(c)(3), which incorporates § 405(g) of the Act. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). After careful and independent consideration of the matter, and for the following reasons, the Court will remand the case to the Commissioner for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

I. Background and Procedural History

On June 13, 2007, Plaintiff applied for SSDI and SSI benefits, alleging disability beginning February 2, 2004. (R. 122-130.) Plaintiff, a high school graduate (R. 28-29), was thirty-nine (39) years old on the date he alleges he became disabled (R. 122). Plaintiff has work experience as a mover and van driver (R. 29-30) and as a groundskeeper (R. 30). Plaintiff alleges that he suffers from multiple severe impairments including degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine with disc herniation at L5-S1 that impinges upon the right SI nerve root, chronic pain, degenerative changes within the posterior horn of the left knee accompanied by grade IV chondromalacia, and major depression. (R. 170-181, 185-186, 188-201, 223-250, 299-304, 306-424.)

The Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's application on November 29, 2007.

(R. 78-87.) On January 8, 2008, Plaintiff timely requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). (R. 90-91.) The hearing was held before ALJ Christine McCafferty on August 28, 2008. (R. 25-55.) In her written decision of September 11, 2008, ALJ McCafferty denied Plaintiff's application for benefits, and held that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. (R. 9-24.) The ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from severe impairments including a lumbar disc disease and a mood disorder, but that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically equal one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. § 404, Subpt. P, App. 1. (R. 14-16.) The ALJ then determined that Plaintiff: has the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform a narrowed range of light work; can perform no more than occasional postural activities, no pushing or pulling with the lower extremeties, no overhead reaching with the right upper extremety, and must have the option of sitting or standing to do work; and is limited to performing no more than simple and routine one to two step tasks with no more than occasional changes in the work setting. (R. 17-22.) Although the ALJ found that Plaintiff was unable to perform any past relevant work, the ALJ found that based on Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and RFC, there were a significant number of jobs in the national economy that he could perform. (R. 22-23) Thus, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not "disabled" under the Act.

(R. 23.)

Plaintiff timely filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision on October 2, 2008 (R. 7- 8), and subsequently submitted a brief in support, via letter, of his request for review on December 11, 2008 (R. 4-6). On April 21, 2009, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, affirming the ALJ's decision. (R. 1-3.) Plaintiff subsequently filed the instant action, requesting that this Court reverse the Commissioner's decision, or, in the alternative, remand the case to the Commissioner for receipt of further evidence. (Doc. Nos. 3, 7.)

II. Legal Standards

A. Jurisdiction

The Social Security Act provides for judicial review by this Court of any "final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security" in a disability proceeding. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2000). A district court may enter a judgment "affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing." Id.

B. Standard of Review

On judicial review of the Commissioner's decision, the Commissioner's findings "as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive." Id. "Substantial evidence is 'such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion . . . .'" Rutherford v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546, 552 (3d Cir. 2005) (quoting Reefer v. Barnhart, 326 F.3d 376, 379 (3d Cir. 2003)). In reviewing the record for substantial evidence, however, this Court must "not 'weigh the evidence or substitute [its own] conclusions for those of the fact finder.'" Rutherford, 399 F.3d at 552 (quoting Williams v. Sullivan, 970 ...


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