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Carlos Raphael Batista v. Michael J. Astrue

March 22, 2011

CARLOS RAPHAEL BATISTA,
PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, DEFENDANT.



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

OPINION

I. INTRODUCTION

Before the Court is Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation (Doc. No. 14). On August 20, 2009, Plaintiff filed his Complaint (Doc. No. 3) alleging wrongful denial of Social Security Disability Benefits and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). The case was referred to Magistrate Judge Henry S. Perkin for a Report and Recommendation (Doc. No. 7). On December 17, 2009, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment And/Or a Motion to Remand and a Brief in Support of the Remand and a Statement of Issues in Support of a Request for Review (Doc. No. 9). On January 15, 2010 Defendant filed a Response to the Request for Review (Doc. No. 12). On July 2, 2010, Judge Perkin issued his Report and Recommendation, (Doc. No. 13), and on July 16, 2010, Defendant filed objections (Doc. No. 14). Plaintiff filed a Response in Opposition to Defendant's Objections on August 31, 2010 (Doc. No.17).

After an independent review of the record, and for the following reasons, the Report and Recommendation of Magistrate Judge Perkin will be approved and adopted, the Commissioner's decision will be vacated, and the matter will be remanded to the Commissioner for further consideration.*fn1

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On May 23, 2005, Plaintiff Carlos Rafael Batista filed an application for Social Security Disability Benefits and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). Plaintiff alleged that his disability began on May 12, 2005,*fn2 stemming from a severe back and spinal injury.*fn3 On June 28, 2005, the application was denied. On August 2, 2007, the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") held a hearing. During the hearing, Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified through an interpreter. A Vocational Expert ("VE") also testified.

On August 28, 2007, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. The ALJ found that Plaintiff's claims of pain were "an exaggeration of subjective complaints of pain, which are not supported by objective clinical evidence." (Administrative Record, 37 (hereinafter "R.")). The ALJ also determined that Plaintiff possessed residual functional capacity to perform medium work*fn4 based on "the objective findings, and the claimant's activities of daily living." (R. 35-38.) On August 20, 2009, Plaintiff commenced the action in this Court after the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review. (R. 6-9.)

III. LEGAL STANDARD

The issue before the Court is whether the record shows substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's*fn5 final decision that the Plaintiff is not disabled. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). Substantial evidence is defined as "more than a mere scintilla . . . [and includes] such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Cherry v. Barnhart, 29 Fed. App'x 898, 901 (3d Cir. 2002) (quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 407 (1971)). "The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive . . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

When the ALJ renders his decision on behalf of the Commissioner, he must set out a specific factual basis for each finding. Baerga v. Richardson, 500 F.2d 309, 312 (3d Cir. 1974), cert. denied, 420 U.S. 931 (1975). The ALJ "must consider all the evidence and give some reason for discounting the evidence [the ALJ] rejects." Ray v. Astrue, 649 F. Supp. 2d 391, 402 (E.D. Pa. 2009) (quoting Adorno v. Shalala, 40 F.3d 43, 48 (3d Cir. 1994)). Although the ALJ does not have to make reference to every relevant medical note in a voluminous medical record, the court "expect[s] the ALJ, as the fact finder, to consider and evaluate the medical evidence in the record consistent with his responsibilities under the regulations and case law." Reefer v. Barnhart, 326 F.3d 376, 381-82 (3d Cir. 2003). Simply referring to the "record as a whole" is insufficient. Abshire v. Bowen, 662 F. Supp. 8 (E.D. Pa. 1986). See Carter v. Apfel, 220 F. Supp. 2d 393, 397 (M.D. Pa. 2000).

A claimant proves he has a "disability" when he demonstrates a medically determinable basis for an impairment that prevents him from engaging in any substantial gainful activity ("SGA") for a statutory 12-month period. 42 U.S.C. § 412(d)(1). In order to determine if a claimant possesses an impairment that prevents him from engaging in any substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner uses a five-step process:

(i) At the first step, we consider your work activity, if any. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will find that you are not disabled.

(ii) At the second step, we consider the medical severity of your impairment(s). If you do not have a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the duration requirement in §404.1509, or a combination of impairments that is severe and meets the duration requirement, we will find that you are not disabled.

(iii) At the third step, we also consider the medical severity of your impairment(s). If you have an impairment(s) that meets or equals one of our listings in appendix 1 of this subpart and meets the ...


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