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Jacqueline Packard v. Michael J. Astrue

October 4, 2012

JACQUELINE PACKARD,
CLAIMANT,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, DEFENDANT.



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

MEMORANDUM ON REQUEST FOR REVIEW

Claimant Jacqueline Packard seeks judicial review of a decision by the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration ("the Commissioner") denying her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-33, 1381-83(f). After careful consideration of all the relevant facts and circumstances, and for the reasons explained below, Packard's request for review of the July 19, 2010 decision of the Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") is DENIED.

I. Background and Procedural History

On December 13, 2008, Packard filed an application for SSI, alleging disability based on mental impairments that limit her ability to concentrate and follow instructions. (Tr. 111) On July 19, 2010, the ALJ issued an unfavorable decision regarding Packard's application, concluding that although Packard suffers from severe impairments (i.e., depression and panic disorder), her impairments do not preclude her from performing low-skilled jobs that are available in the national economy. (Tr. 14-23.) Packard requested review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council; this request was denied on September 22, 2011. Packard thereafter

commenced the instant action.

II. Legal Standards

A. Jurisdiction

The Social Security Act provides for judicial review by this Court of any "final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security" in a disability proceeding. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3). A district court may enter a judgment "affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing." Id.

B. Standard of Review

On judicial review of the Commissioner's decision, the Commissioner's findings of fact, "if supported by substantial evidence," are conclusive. Id. Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Smith v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 632, 633 (3d Cir. 2010) (internal quotation marks omitted). It is a standard requiring "less than a preponderance of the evidence but more than a mere scintilla." Jones v. Barnhart, 364 F.3d 501, 503 (3d Cir. 2004).

In reviewing the record for substantial evidence, however, the Court must "not weigh the evidence or substitute [its own] conclusions for those of the fact finder." Rutherford v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546, 552 (3d Cir. 2005) (internal quotation marks omitted).

The Court's review of the legal standards applied by the ALJ is plenary. See Allen v. Barnhart, 417 F.3d 396, 398 (3d Cir. 2005).

C. Disability Claims Analysis

The Social Security Act defines disability as an "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." 42 U.S.C. ยง 423(d)(1)(A). To determine whether a claimant is disabled, an ALJ "must perform a five-step, sequential analysis." Smith, 631 ...


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