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Brett L. Wallace v. Commissioner of Social Security

September 24, 2012

BRETT L. WALLACE, 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 (ECF.10 ) will be denied; the defendant's motion (ECF. 12) will be granted, and the Commissioner's determination will be affirmed.

On May 3, 2012, Brett L. Wallace, by his 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 his 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 February 7, 2007, the plaintiff filed an application for disability benefits alleging that he had been disabled since February 27, 2004 (R.171-173), and benefits were denied on May 14, 2007 (R.71-73). On June 29, 2007, the plaintiff requested reconsideration of this determination

(R.79), and upon reconsideration, and in a decision dated October 3, 2007, benefits were again denied (R.80-85). A hearing was held on June 16, 2010 (R.30-65). In a decision dated July 29, 2010, benefits were denied (R.14-25), and on October 1, 2010, reconsideration was requested

(R.13). Upon reconsideration and in a decision dated February 24, 2012, the Appeals Council affirmed the prior determination (R.6-9). On May 3, 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 his burden of demonstrating that he 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). 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 June 16, 2010 (R.30-65), the plaintiff appeared with counsel

(R.32) and testified that he was born on August 29, 1956 (R.37); that he graduated from high school (R.37,55); that he worked as a coal mine shuttle car operator and mine equipment repairman (R.39-40); that he also worked as a coal mine mechanic and roof welder (R.40-41) and that he was injured at work in 2004 (R.42).

The plaintiff also testified that he experiences constant back pain (R.42-43); he is right handed (R.37,55) and his left thumb is fused (R.43); that he can sit, stand or walk for up to twenty minutes (R.44,56); that he smokes marijuana to go to sleep (R.45); that he can lift five to ten pounds (R.46); that the only medication he takes is over the counter medication (R.45); that he sits around the house all day (R.47); that his doctor has indicated that at some time he will need surgery (R.51) and that he has had wrist, rotator cuff and meniscal surgery in the past (R.52).

At the hearing a vocational expert was called upon to testify (R.60-63). The witness described the plaintiff's past work as unskilled to skilled work at a medium exertional level (R.60). He further testified that if the plaintiff could only perform at the light work exertional level he would be precluded from performing his past work (R.61). However, he further testified that an individual of the plaintiff's age, education and work experience who could only perform at the medium exertional level could engage in a wide range of gainful employment (R.61-62). The same conclusion was said to be applicable if the plaintiff was limited to sedentary work (R.62). Additionally, the witness testified that if such an individual had to move around every fifteen minutes he could not be employed (R.63).

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 expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months....

For purposes of the foregoing, the requirements for a disability determination are provided in 42 ...


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