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Waldene Nichole Baugh v. Michael J. Astrue

November 30, 2012


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Arthur J. Schwab United States District Judge




Waldene Nichole Baugh ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking review of the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or "Commissioner") denying her application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 -- 433, 1381 -- 1383f ("Act"). This matter comes before the Court upon cross-motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 10, 12). The record has been developed at the administrative level. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment will be DENIED, and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment will be GRANTED.


Plaintiff filed for DIB and SSI with the Social Security Administration on December 8, 2009, claiming an inability to work due to disability beginning January 10, 2009. (R. at 145 -- 53)*fn1 . Plaintiff was initially denied benefits on June 14, 2010. (R. at 75 -- 98). A hearing was scheduled for July 25, 2011. (R. at 35 -- 57). Plaintiff appeared to testify, and was represented by counsel. (R. at 35 -- 57). A vocational expert also testified. (R. at 35 -- 57). The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") issued his decision denying benefits to Plaintiff on September 19, 2011. (R. at 14 -- 34). Plaintiff filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council, which request was denied on May 7, 2012, thereby making the decision of the ALJ the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. at 1 -- 6).

Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this Court on July 6, 2012. (ECF No. 3). Defendant filed his Answer on September 6, 2012. (ECF No. 7). Cross-motions for summary judgment followed.


In his decision denying DIB and SSI to Plaintiff, the ALJ made the following findings:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through September 30, 2010;

2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 10, 2009, the alleged onset date;

3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease, obesity, sleep apnea, bipolar disorder, panic disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder;

4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1;

5. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. 404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) except she could sit for 45 minutes to an hour, she would stand or walk for 15 minutes per hour, and she would need to change between sit and stand such as that; she could not climb, stoop, crouch, kneel,

or crawl; she could not do pushing and pulling of 10 pounds at the sedentary exertional level; she would be limited to simple, routine, repetitive tasks not performed in a fast-paced production environment; she would be limited to low stress jobs and simple work decisions; and she would be limited to occasional interaction with supervisors, co-workers, and the general public;

6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work;

7. The claimant was born on December 5, 1964 and was 44 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-44, on the alleged disability onset date. The claimant subsequently changed age category to a younger individual age 45 -- 49;

8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English;

9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is "not disabled," whether or not the claimant has transferable jobs skills;

10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform; and,

11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from January 10, 2009, through the date of this decision.

(R. at 18 -- 30).


This Court's review is plenary with respect to all questions of law. Schandeck v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 181 F.3d 429, 431 (3d Cir. 1999). With respect to factual issues, judicial review is limited to determining whether the Commissioner's decision is "supported by substantial evidence." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Adorno v. Shalala, 40 F. 3d 43, 46 (3d Cir. 1994). A United States District Court may not undertake a de novo review of the Commissioner's decision or re-weigh the evidence of record. Monsour Medical Center v. Heckler, 806 F. 2d 1185, 1190 -- 1191 (3d Cir. 1986). Congress has clearly expressed its intention that "[t]he findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). 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." Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 565 (1988) (internal quotation marks omitted). As long as the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, it ...

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