The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hay, Chief Magistrate Judge
Acting pursuant to 42 U.S.C. 1383(c)(3), Thomas Wells ("Wells" or "the Claimant") appeals from an August 8, 2009 decision of the Commissioner denying his application for supplemental security income benefits. Cross Motions for Summary Judgment are pending. The Motion filed by Wells (Doc. 7) will be denied, and the Motion filed by the Commissioner (Doc. 12) will be granted.
On April 16, 2007, Wells protectively filed an application for supplemental security income benefits, alleging that he became disabled on October 1, 1980 due to blindness in his left eye, impaired vision in his right eye, borderline intellectual functioning, and a history of alcohol abuse. This claim was denied initially in a decision dated August 1, 2007. (T. 53). Wells then requested a hearing which took place in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on October 16, 2008. (T. 29). The Claimant, who was represented by counsel, testified, as did a vocational expert. On January 21, 2009, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") issued a decision in which he found that Wells was not disabled. (T. 20). A request for review was denied by the Appeals Council on August 8, 2009, making the ALJ's opinion the final decision of the Commissioner. This appeal followed.
The Social Security Act ("the Act") limits judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision regarding benefits to two issues: whether the factual findings are supported by substantial evidence, Brown v. Bowen, 845 F.2d 1211, 1213 (3d Cir. 1988), and whether the correct law was applied. Coria v. Heckler, 750 F.2d 245, 247 (3d Cir. 1984). "Where the ALJ's findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence, [the Court is] bound by those findings, even if [it] would have decided the factual inquiry differently." Fargnoli v. Massanari, 247 F.3d 34, 38 (3d Cir. 2001).
The ALJ arrived at his finding that Wells was not disabled within the meaning of the Act by applying the sequential five step analysis articulated at 20 C.F.R. § 416.9020(a).*fn1 A claimant bears the burden of proof at the first four steps, and the Commissioner bears the burden at the fifth. See Fargnoli, 247 F.3d at 39. The ALJ resolved this matter at Step Five.
At Step One, the ALJ found that Wells had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the date of his protective filing. (T. 22). At Step Two, the ALJ concluded that the Claimant had "the following severe impairments: left eye blindness, poor vision in the right eye due to congenital cataracts and amblyopia, major depressive disorder, recurrent, moderate, borderline intellectual functioning, and a history of alcohol abuse." (Id.). He found at Step Three that none of these impairments met or was equivalent to any of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. First, the ALJ considered Wells's visual impairments under Listing 2.00, which addresses special senses and speech, finding that "the medical evidence of record does not contain the objective signs, symptoms, or findings, nor the degree of functional restriction[ ] necessary for the claimant's impairment[ ] to meet or equal any section of [that] Listing," (id.), and that no "medical source of record . . . opined that the claimant's visual impairments either meet or equal a listed impairment." (T. 23).*fn2
At Step Three, the ALJ also addressed the criteria for Affective Disorders at listing 12.04, Mental Retardation at listing 12.05, and Substance Addiction Disorders at 12.09, concluding that Wells did not satisfy the criteria specified for these listings, either alone or in combination.*fn3 The ALJ wrote:
To satisfy the "paragraph B" criteria ("paragraph D" criteria of listing 12.05), the mental impairments must result in at least two of the following: marked restriction of activities of daily living; marked difficulties in maintaining social functioning; marked difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; or repeated episodes of decompensation, each of extended duration.
Before moving to Step Four, the ALJ reviewed the record evidence, including Wells's testimony, and assessed his residual functional capacity:
After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following non-exertional limitations: the claimant can only handle objects such as a coffee mug and larger due to loss of vision in one eye. In addition, the claimant is limited to simple, routine, low stress work, with no public interaction, and only occasional ...