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McGrew v. Colvin

United States District Court, Third Circuit

June 14, 2013

REBECCA L. McGREW, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, [1] Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ARTHUR J. SCHWAB, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Rebecca L. McGrew ("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 and 1381-1383f ("Act"). This matter comes before the Court upon cross-motions for summary judgment. (Doc. Nos. 6 & 8). The record has been developed at the administrative level. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. no. 6) will be GRANTED in PART and DENIED in PART, and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (doc. no. 8) will be DENIED.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Plaintiff filed for DIB and SSI with the Social Security Administration on September 30 2009, claiming an inability to work due to disability beginning May 15, 2009. (Transcript ("Tr.") at 123-31). Plaintiff was initially denied benefits on March 18, 2010. (Tr. 61-69). A hearing was scheduled for June 16, 2011. (Tr. 32-46). Plaintiff appeared to testify, and was not represented by counsel. (Tr. 47-56). A vocational expert ("VE") also testified. (Id.). The Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") issued his decision denying benefits to Plaintiff on June 29, 2011. (Tr. 19-30). Plaintiff filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council, which request was denied on November 30, 2012, thereby making the decision of the ALJ the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 3-8).

Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this Court on January 29, 2013. (Doc. No. 1). Defendant filed her Answer on April 22, 2013. (Doc. No. 3). Cross-motions for summary judgment followed. (Doc. Nos. 6 & 8).

III. STATEMENT OF THE CASE

The ALJ made the following findings in denying Plaintiff's application for SSI:

1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through September 30, 2009. (Tr. 24);
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 15, 2009, the alleged onset date (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq. 416.971 et seq. ). (Id.);
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: irritable bowel syndrome, hepatitis C, obesity, and asthma (20 CFR 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)). (Id.);
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals one of the listed impairment in 20 CFR 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926). (Tr. 25);
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, [] the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work with a sit-stand option at her discretion and limited to low stress work defined in this case as simple, routine, repetitive tasks (Id.);
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965). (Tr. 28);
7. The claimant was born on November 8, 1962 and was 46 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and 416.963). (Id.);
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964). (Id.);
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 climant is "not disabled, " whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2). (Tr. 28-29);
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 (20 CFR 404.1569, 404.1569(a), 416, 969 and 416.969(a)); (Tr. 29); and
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from May 15, 2009, through the date of this decision (20 CFR 404.1520(g) and 416.920(g)) (Id.).

IV. STANDARD OF REVIEW

This Court's review is plenary with respect to all questions of law. Poulos v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 474 F.3d 88, 91 (3d Cir. 2007). 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); Hagans v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 694 F.3d 287, 292 (3d Cir. 2012). A United States District Court may not undertake a de novo review of the Commissioner's decision or re-weigh the evidence of record. Chandler v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 667 F.3d 356, 359 (3d Cir. 2011) (citation omitted). 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 cannot be set aside even if this Court "would have decided the factual inquiry differently." Brown v. Astrue, 649 F.3d 193, 196 (3d Cir. 2011) (quoting Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir. 1999)). "Overall, the substantial evidence standard is a deferential standard of review." Jones v. Barnhart, 364 F.3d 501, 503 (3d Cir. 2004).

In order to establish a disability under the Act, a claimant must demonstrate a "medically determinable basis for an impairment that prevents him [or her] from engaging in any substantial gainful activity' for a statutory twelve-month period." Newell v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 347 F.3d 541, 545 (3d Cir. 2003) (quoting Stunkard v. Sec'y of Health & Human Serv., 841 F.2d 57, 59 (3d Cir. 1988)); 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). A claimant is considered to be unable to engage in substantial gainful activity "only if his [or her] physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he [or she] is not only unable to do his [or her] previous work but cannot, considering his ...


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