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Jason D. Rimel v. Michael J. Astrue

May 16, 2012

JASON D. RIMEL, PLAINTIFF,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Ambrose, Senior District Judge.

OPINION and ORDER OF COURT

SYNOPSIS

Pending before the Court are Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (Docket Nos. 8 and

11). Both parties have filed Briefs in Support of their Motions. (Docket Nos. 9 and 12). After careful consideration of the submissions of the parties, and based on my Opinion set forth below, I am granting Defendant=s Motion for Summary Judgment (Docket No. 11) and denying Plaintiff=s Motion for Summary Judgment. (Docket No. 8).

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff has brought this action for review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (ACommissioner@) denying his application for disability insurance benefits and social security income pursuant to the Social Security Act (AAct@). On January 14, 2007, Plaintiff filed an application alleging that since June 2, 2005, he had been disabled due to obsessive compulsive disorder, anxiety and depression. (R. 267-274, 295-300). Administrative Law Judge Donald T. McDougall held a hearing on July 9, 2008. (R. 140-168). On December 1, 2008, ALJ McDougall found that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act. (R. 175-188).

On July 28, 2009, the Appeals Council issued an order remanding the case back to an ALJ for an evaluation of the opinions of Sharon G. Rechter, M.D., the treating psychiatrist, as set forth in Exhibit 12F. (R. 189-192).

On remand, the case was assigned to ALJ J. E. Sullivan and a hearing was held on November 12, 2009. (R. 44-139). Three witnesses testified at the hearing: Plaintiff, a medical expert, Richard Cohen, M.D., and a vocational expert. Id.

On January 28, 2010, ALJ Sullivan found that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act. (R. 8-43). After exhausting all of his administrative remedies thereafter, Plaintiff filed this action.

The parties have filed Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (Docket Nos. 8 and 11). The issues are now ripe for review.

II. LEGAL ANALYSIS

A. STANDARD OF REVIEW

The standard of review in social security cases is whether substantial evidence exists in the record to support the Commissioner=s decision. Allen v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 37, 39 (3d Cir. 1989). Substantial evidence has been defined as Amore than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate.@ Ventura v. Shalala, 55 F.3d 900, 901 (3d Cir. 1995), quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). Additionally, the Commissioner=s findings of fact, if supported by substantial evidence, are conclusive. 42 U.S.C. '405(g); Dobrowolsky v. Califano, 606 F.2d 403, 406 (3d Cir. 1979). A district court cannot conduct a de novo review of the Commissioner=s decision or re-weigh the evidence of record. Palmer v. Apfel, 995 F.Supp. 549, 552 (E.D. Pa. 1998). Where the ALJ's findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence, a court is bound by those findings, even if the court would have decided the factual inquiry differently. Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir. 1999). To determine whether a finding is supported by substantial evidence, however, the district court must review the record as a whole. See, 5 U.S.C. '706.

To be eligible for social security benefits, the plaintiff must demonstrate that he cannot engage in substantial gainful activity because of a medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 ...


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