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Dawn Denise Edelman v. Michael J. Astrue

May 8, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'neill, J.


Dawn Edelman filed a claim for Social Security disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. Afer the Commissioner of Social Security denied her claim, Edelman sought judicial review in this Court. I referred this matter to Magistrate Judge Henry S. Perkin, who recommended that I affirm the Commissioner's decision. In response, Edelman filed objections to Judge Perkin's Report and Recommendation. For the reasons that follow, I will overrule Edelman's objections, approve and adopt the Report and Recommendation and affirm the decision of the Commissioner.


I incorporate by reference the factual and procedural history of this matter as set forth in the Report and Recommendation. Briefly, however, Edelman applied for Social Security benefits on December 8, 2006, claiming that her disability began on October 12, 1997. Tr. 115. After a hearing, the ALJ performed the following five-step analysis for determining Edelman's eligibility for Social Security disability benefits: inquir[ing], in turn, whether [she]: (1) is engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) suffers from an impairment or combination of impairments that is "severe"; (3) suffers from an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or equals a listed impairment; (4) is able to perform . . . her past relevant work; and (5) is able to perform work existing in significant numbers in the national economy.

McRea v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 370 F.3d 357, 360 (3d Cir. 2004). The ALJ determined that Edelman was not employed and had "the following severe impairments: neck and shoulder impairment, anxiety, depression, and (possible) fibromyalgia." Tr. 11. The ALJ concluded, however, that Edelman "has the residual functional capacity to perform light work . . . which involves routine one to two step tasks, with no detailed instructions, few work changes, and no exposure to chemicals." Tr. 13. The ALJ then determined that Edelman could not perform her previous work as a waitress, but that she could perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. Tr.22-23. Edelman's claim was therefore denied. Her subsequent administrative appeal was also denied.

Edelman then appealed the Commissioner's decision to this Court. She argues that the ALJ erred in four ways: (1) failing to properly consider Edelman's fibromyalgia and cervical disc disorder, (2) improperly evaluating Edelman's credibility, (3) improperly rejecting the opinions of Edelman's treating physicians and (4) asking an improper question to the vocational expert. The Magistrate Judge found each argument unavailing and recommended that I affirm the Commissioner's decision.


A district court judge may refer an appeal of a decision of the Commissioner to a magistrate judge. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Within ten days after being served a copy of the magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation, a party may file timely and specific objections thereto. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(c). In the event that objections are filed, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) requires a district court to "make a de novo determination of those portions of the [magistrate judge's] recommendations to which objection is made." It further allows the Court to "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate." Id..

The issue to be addressed on appeal from a denial of benefits is whether the Commissioner's decisions are supported by substantial evidence. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see also Adorno v. Shalala, 40 F.3d 43, 46 (3d Cir. 1994). "Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). "It is less than a preponderance of the evidence but more than a mere scintilla." Jesurum v. Sec'y of U.S. Dept. of Health & Human Servs., 48 F.3d 114, 117 (3d Cir. 1995). "Overall, the substantial evidence standard is deferential and includes deference to inferences drawn from the facts if they, in turn, are supported by substantial evidence." Schaudeck v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 181 F.3d 429, 433 (3d Cir. 1999). Where the ALJ's factual findings are supported by substantial evidence, I am bound by them even if I would have reached different conclusions. See Fargnoli v. Massanari, 247 F.3d 34, 38 (3d Cir. 2001).

In rendering a decision, the ALJ need not refer to every piece of evidence in the record. See id. at 42. But the ALJ must provide "not only an expression of the evidence s/he considered which supports the result, but also some indication of the evidence which was rejected. In the absence of such an indication, the reviewing court cannot tell if significant probative evidence was not credited or simply ignored." Cotter v. Harris, 642 F.2d 700, 705 (3d Cir. 1981).


I. Residual Functional Capacity

Edelman objects to the Magistrate Judge's recommendation that the ALJ's RFC determination was supported by substantial evidence. Edelman points to the following evidence to support her argument. First, several doctors have diagnosed Edelman with cervical disc problems, fibromyalgia or both. Dr. Charles Ludivico diagnosed her with fibromyalgia and cervical degenerative disc disease on June 24, 1999. Tr. 694. On September 10, 1999, Dr. Charles Bruno agreed that Edelman had fibromyalgia. Tr. 763-64. In March of 2000, Dr. Dane Wukich diagnosed Edelman with a cervical disc herniation and fibromyalgia. Tr. 935. Dr Wukich also testified at Edelman's worker's compensation hearing that he deemed Edelman's complaints of pain credible. Tr. 969.

Second, Edelman has been deemed capable of less than sedentary, full-time work. On January 13, 1998, Dr. Bruno considered Edelman capable of performing a job that required no lifting of more than ten pounds, for no more than four hours per day. Tr. 773. On May 1, 1999, Dr. Ludivico deemed Edelman capable of only part-time, sedentary work. Tr. 705. In the course of her worker's compensation claim, Edelman underwent a functional capacity ...

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