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Weitzel v. Colvin

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

August 23, 2013

JO ANN WEITZEL, Plaintiff
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant

For Jo Ann Weitzel, Plaintiff: Gregory G. Paul, Equality At Work, PLLC, Sewickley, PA; Robert W Gillikin, II, Rutter Mills, LLP, Norfolk, VA.

For Commissioner Michael J. Astrue, Defendant: Mark.E. Morrison, U.S. Attorney's office - Social Security, Harrisburg, PA.

OPINION

MEMORANDUM

Nealon, United States District Judge.

Background

The above-captioned action is one seeking review of a decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (" Commissioner" ) denying Plaintiff Jo Ann Weitzel's claim for social security disability insurance benefits.

Weitzel protectively filed her application for disability insurance benefits on March 18, 2008. Tr. 17, 64, 97-101 and 108. [1] The application was initially denied by the Bureau of Disability Determination [2] on June

Page 1090

10, 2008. Tr. 64 and 66-69. On July 7, 2008, Weitzel requested a hearing before an administrative law judge. Tr. 17 and 72. After about 21 months had passed, a hearing was held on April 8, 2010, before an administrative law judge. Tr. 17 and 28-63. On April 29, 2010, the administrative law judge issued a decision denying Weitzel's application. Tr. 17-23. On June 25, 2010, Weitzel filed a request for review with the Appeals Council and after almost 18 months had passed, the Appeals Council on December 7, 2011, concluded that there was no basis to grant Weitzel's request for review. Tr. 1-6 and 11-13.

Weitzel then filed a complaint in this Court on February 6, 2012. Supporting and opposing briefs were submitted and the appeal [3] became ripe for disposition on July 18, 2012, when Weitzel filed a reply brief.

Disability insurance benefits are paid to an individual if that individual is disabled and " insured," that is, the individual has worked long enough and paid social security taxes. The last date that a claimant meets the requirements of being insured is commonly referred to as the " date last insured." It is undisputed that Weitzel met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30, 2012. Tr. 17, 19, 102 and 144.

Weitzel, who was born on July 29, 1946, withdrew from school in 1964 after completing the 11th grade. Tr. 35, 97 and 131. Weitzel can read, write, speak and understand the English language and perform basic mathematical functions. Tr. 41 and 124. During her elementary and secondary schooling, Weitzel attended regular education classes. Tr. 131. After withdrawing from school, Weitzel did not obtain a General Equivalency Diploma. Tr. 40. Weitzel is considered a person of limited education. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1564(b)(3).

The record reveals that Weitzel had earnings in 1964, 1965, 1969, 1970, 1987 through 1996, and 2000 through 2008. Tr. 103. Her total earnings during those 23 years were $161,236.47. Id. The Court will, however, focus on Weitzel's employment commencing in 1987. Weitzel had employment as a dispatcher for the Area Transportation Authority of North Central, Pennsylvania, Inc., a bus company, from 1987 to 1996. [4] Tr. 104, 112 and 182. Weitzel's earnings during those years were as follows:

1987

$ 2357.25

1988

6063.27

1989

10987.51

1990

11804.13

1991

12960.81

1992

14179.76

1993

14649.74

1994

16159.13

1995

16566.15

1996

785.48

Tr. 103-104. Weitzel's description of the dispatcher position set forth in a document filed with the Social Administration suggests that from an exertional standpoint it primarily was a sedentary one. Tr. 115. Weitzel stated that the position involved walking 1 hour, standing 1 hour and sitting 3 hours during an 8-hour workday [5] and

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the heaviest weight she lifted was less than 10 pounds. [6] Id.

In the year 2000, Weitzel earned $3488.80 when she worked as a recreational therapist at the Charles Cole Memorial Hospital, Coudersport, Pennsylvania. Tr. 104, 112 and 182. The description of the recreational therapist position provided by Weitzel suggests that with respect to the weight lifted it was a sedentary position but with respect to the standing, walking and sitting requirements it was more than a sedentary one. Tr. 114. Weitzel stated that she would walk 3 hours, stand .5 hours, sit 3 hours and stoop .5 hours, and write, type or handle small objects 1 hour. Id.

In 2001, Weitzel worked part of the year as a recreational therapist at the Charles Cole Memorial Hospital earning $1804.67 and then as a driver's license technician for the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles [7] earning $2752.12. Tr. 38, 104 and 182. Weitzel's total earnings in 2001 were $4556.79. Tr. 103. As a driver's license technician Weitzel would, inter alia, answer questions and take photographs. Tr. 113. The description of the driver's license technician position provided by Weitzel suggests that it was more than a sedentary one. Id. The heaviest weight lifted by Weitzel was 10 pounds and she alternated sitting and standing. Tr. 38-39 and 113.

In 2002 through 2008, Weitzel worked as a driver's license technician and had the following earnings:

2002

$3843.03

2003

7355.16

2004

7116.69

2005

7122.07

2006

7320.83

2007

8089.17

2008

854.29


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