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Rochell Jones v. Michael J. Astrue

August 10, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Paul S. Diamond, J.


Plaintiff Rochell Jones seeks review of the Social Security Commissioner's denial of her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. After Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and Request for Review, I referred the matter to the Magistrate Judge. (Doc. Nos. 9, 12.) For the following reasons, I will overrule Plaintiff's Objections to the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation, and enter judgment for the Commissioner.


At the time of the ALJ's decision, Plaintiff was forty-nine years old. R. at 26. She had completed the eleventh grade and resided in a transitional home for women, where she performed daily chores. R. at 28-29, 35. Plaintiff alleged disability due to neck, back, and arm pain, and depression. R. at 11, 13, 27. Ms. Jones's medical records reveal that she has received ongoing treatment for lower back, arm, and neck pain, resulting from two car accidents in 2006.

R. at 26, 312, 326; (Doc. No. 14 at 5-7.)

After the Social Security Administration denied Plaintiff's claims on January 15, 2009, she timely sought a hearing. R. at 69, 74. On May 28, 2010, the ALJ held a hearing at which counsel represented Plaintiff. R. at 25. Plaintiff testified to her impairments and prior employment as a packager. R. at 27-42. Vocational expert William Slaven testified that given Plaintiff's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, Plaintiff could perform jobs at the sedentary exertion level. R. at 42-46.

In her June 24, 2010 decision, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following impairments: severe back pain and depression. R. at 11. In determining Ms. Jones's residual functional capacity, the ALJ reviewed the medical evidence, state agency assessments, and Ms. Jones's testimony regarding her impairments and symptoms. The ALJ found Ms. Jones's testimony only "partially credible concerning the severity of her impairments and their impact on her ability to work." R. at 15. The ALJ nevertheless included significant physical limitations in her RFC determination. R. at 12. The ALJ found that Ms. Jones: 1) could not return to her work as a packager, and could perform less than the full range of sedentary level work; 2) could lift and carry ten pounds, sit six of every eight hours, stand and walk two of eight hours, and perform postural activities (i.e., reaching) with occasional regularity; and 3) must alternate sitting and standing at will. Id. Finally, relying on Mr. Slaven's testimony, the ALJ identified jobs Plaintiff could perform that exist in substantial numbers in the national economy, such as lens inserter, rating clerk, and telephone information clerk. Id. at 17. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled and denied her application for DIB and SSI.

After the Appeals Council affirmed, Plaintiff filed this action, challenging the Commissioner's decision. (Doc. Nos. 1, 3.) I referred the matter to the Magistrate Judge, who issued a Report and Recommendation concluding that the ALJ's decision should be affirmed. (Doc. No. 14.) Ms. Jones timely objected, and the Commissioner has responded to those Objections. (Doc. Nos. 16, 17.)

II.Legal Standards

I must review de novo each issue addressed by the Magistrate to which Plaintiff has raised a timely and specific Objection. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); see also Brown v. Astrue, 649 F.3d 193, 195 (3d Cir. 2011). I may "accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the [Magistrate's] findings and recommendations." 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). It is also within my discretion to rely on the Magistrate's proposed findings and recommendations. See United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 676 (1980).

I must determine whether "substantial evidence" supports the ALJ's decision. Monsour Med. Ctr. v. Heckler, 806 F.2d 1185, 1190 (3d Cir. 1986). "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.'" Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir. 1999 (quoting Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 564--65 (1988)). If substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision, I must uphold it even if I would have made different factual findings. Hartranft, 181 F.3d at 360.

When evaluating a claimant's credibility, the ALJ must indicate the testimony she rejects and the testimony upon which she bases her findings. See Schaudeck v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 181 F.3d 429, 433 (3d Cir. 1999). In concluding that some or all of a claimant's testimony is not credible, the ALJ may rely on discrepant medical evidence and the claimant's inconsistent statements. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529; Chandler v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 667 F.3d 356, 363 (3d Cir. 2011) ("Although 'any statements of the individual concerning his or her symptoms must be carefully considered,' the ALJ is not required to credit them." (quoting SSR 96-7p, 1996 WL 374186, at *3 (July 2, 1996))); Burns v. Barnhart, 312 F.3d 113, 129-30 (3d Cir. 2002).


Plaintiff's three Objections all pertain to the ALJ's finding that Plaintiff was "only partially credible concerning the severity of her impairments and on their ...

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