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Pamela L. Wright v. Michael J. Astrue

May 4, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge




Pamela L. Wright ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking review of the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or "Commissioner") denying her application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 -- 433 ("Act"). This matter comes before the court upon cross-motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 11, 13). The record has been developed at the administrative level. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment will be GRANTED, in part, and DENIED, in part, and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment will be DENIED.


Plaintiff filed for DIB with the Social Security Administration on April 21, 2008, claiming an inability to work due to disability beginning January 3, 2006. (R. at 107 -- 16)*fn1 . Plaintiff was initially denied benefits on June 19, 2008. (R. at 65 -- 68). A hearing was scheduled for October 15, 2009, and Plaintiff appeared to testify represented by counsel. (R. at 28 -- 60). A vocational expert also testified. (R. at 28 -- 60). The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") issued her decision denying benefits to Plaintiff on November 12, 2009. (R. at 15 -- 27). Plaintiff filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council, which request was denied on August 12, 2011, thereby making the decision of the ALJ the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. at 1 -- 5).

Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this Court on October 11, 2011. (ECF No. 1). Defendant filed its Answer on January 13, 2012. (ECF No. 5). Cross-motions for summary judgment followed.


In her decision denying DIB to Plaintiff, the ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2010;

2. The claimant had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 3, 2006, the alleged onset date;

3. The claimant has the following severe impairment: fibromyalgia; 4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App'x 1;

5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(b) except that she would require a sit/stand option. She should never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds, but can occasionally climb ramps and stairs. She should only occasionally stoop, kneel, balance, crouch and crawl. The claimant should avoid working around hazards such as dangerous moving machinery and unprotected heights. She should avoid extremes of cold. She should not perform constant overhead reaching. The claimant would be limited to performing entry level work that does not involve intense concentration. She would be limited to work involving instructions that can be written down;

6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work; 7. The claimant was born on May 11, 1960 and was 45 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged onset date;

8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English;

9. Transferability of jobs skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a findings that the claimant is "not disabled," whether or not the claimant has transferable jobs skills;

10. Considering the claimants age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform; and,

11. The claimant had not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from January 3, 2006 through the date of this decision.

(R. at 17 -- 26).


This Court's review is plenary with respect to all questions of law. Schandeck v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 181 F.3d 429, 431 (3d Cir. 1999). With respect to factual issues, judicial review is limited to determining whether the Commissioner's decision is "supported by substantial evidence." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Adorno v. Shalala, 40 F.3d 43, 46 (3d Cir. 1994). A United States District Court may not undertake a de novo review of the Commissioner's decision or re-weigh the evidence of record. Monsour Medical Center v. Heckler, 806 F.2d 1185, 1190-1191(3d Cir. 1986). Congress has clearly expressed its intention that "[t]he 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). Substantial evidence "does not mean a large or considerable amount of evidence, but rather 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 quotation marks omitted). As long as the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, ...

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