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Christine M. Stein v. Commissioner of Social Security

July 30, 2012

CHRISTINE M. STEIN, PLAINTIFF,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

Presently before the Court for disposition are cross motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 10) will be denied; the defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No.12) will be granted and the decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed.

On March 5, 2012, Christine M. Stein, by her counsel, filed a complaint pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §405(g), for review of the Commissioner's final determination disallowing her claim for a period of disability or for disability insurance benefits under Sections 216(i) and 223 of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§416(i) and 423.

On June 2, 2009, the plaintiff filed an application for disability benefits alleging that she had been disabled since June 3, 2004 (R.117-120), and benefits were denied on August 11, 2009

(R. 79-80). On August 27, 2009, the plaintiff requested a hearing (R.86-87) and pursuant to that request a hearing was held on May 11, 2010 (R.50-76). In a decision dated June 8, 2010, benefits were denied (R.36-49), and on August 6, 2010, reconsideration was requested (R.23-27). Upon reconsideration and in a decision dated January 4, 2012, the Appeals Council affirmed the prior determination (R.1-3). On March 5, 2012, the instant complaint was filed.

In reviewing an administrative determination of the Commissioner, the question before any court is whether there is substantial evidence in the agency record to support the findings of the Commissioner that the plaintiff failed to sustain her burden of demonstrating that she was disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.

It is provided in 42 U.S.C. Section 405(g) that:

The court shall have power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing. The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive....

Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, Johnson v. Comm'r. 529 F.3d 198 (3d Cir.2008) and the court may not set aside a decision supported by substantial evidence. Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358 (3d Cir.1999).

At the hearing held on May 11, 2010 (R. 50-76) the plaintiff appeared with counsel

(R.52) and testified that she last worked in 2004 as a secretary and that she stopped working when she had to take a job-buyout since her duties were increased (R.53-54).

The plaintiff also testified that she has a fractured wrist (R.55); that her back pain has gotten worse (R.56-57,71); that she requires help performing household chores (R.60); that she can sit for about a half hour and lift eight pounds (R.62,68,69); that she requires help performing household chores (R.60); that she had gastric bypass surgery in 2003 (R.71) and that she takes Vicodan for pain (R.63-64).

At the hearing a vocational expert was called upon to testify (R.73-75). She characterized the plaintiff's past work as lower end semi-skilled light work with no skills transferable to sedentary work (R.74). The Administrative Law Judge concluded that the only question before him was whether the plaintiff could perform her prior work (R.75).

The issue before the Court for immediate resolution is a determination of whether or not there is substantial evidence to support the findings of the Commissioner that the plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act.

The term "disability" is defined in 42 U.S.C. Section 423(d)(1)(A) as: inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be ...


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