United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
THOMAS M. BLEWITT, United States Magistrate Judge
I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY.
Plaintiff, Paul Henderson, filed, through counsel, a Complaint on March 4, 2013, appealing the final decision denying his applications for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits and for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”), under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (“Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§401-433, 1381-1383f. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff filed his Complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g). Plaintiff paid the filing fee. The Complaint named as Defendant Michael J. Astrue, former Commissioner of Social Security. As Defendant notes, the proper Defendant is now Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security. (Doc. 11, p. 1 n. 1).
This Court has jurisdiction over this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g) and 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3). See Smith v. Astrue, No. 10-CV- 1178, 2011 WL 1790055, *2 (W.D. Pa. May 10, 2011).
After being granted an extension of time, the Defendant filed an Answer to the Complaint on June 13, 2013. (Doc. 8). Defendant also filed the complete administrative record. (Doc. 9). On July 26, 2013, the Plaintiff filed his Brief in support of his Complaint. (Doc. 10). On August 22, 2013, the Defendant filed her Brief. (Doc. 11). Plaintiff did not file a Reply Brief.
Plaintiff Henderson, born on December 4, 1980, filed applications for DIB and SSI, on October 2, 2008, and on December 31, 2008, respectively, alleging disability due his back, left ankle and leg pain. Specifically, Plaintiff was diagnosed with a left ankle condition (tarsal tunnel syndrome) and a lumbar spine condition, i.e, lumbago, and chronic L5 radiculopathy. Plaintiff indicated that he became unable to work due to his conditions on April 1, 2008. Plaintiff was 27 years old on the alleged disability onset date. (TR 51-52, 69).
Plaintiff stated that he worked until July 2007, when his employer company went out of business. Plaintiff’s previous work included forklift operator/material handler, grocery store clerk, and cook/cashier. (TR 14). Plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act through June 30, 2011. (TR 13). Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful activity from his alleged onset date, April 1, 2008. Plaintiff‘s DIB and SSI applications were initially denied by the Agency on October 28, 2008. (TR 60-66). The Plaintiff filed a written request for a hearing. On September 9, 2010, a hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Edward Brady. (TR 49). Plaintiff, who at the time was 31 years old, testified at the hearing and vocational expert Jodie Darden also testified at the hearing. (TR 389-414). On October 6, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff’s applications for disability benefits and finding that Plaintiff was not under a disability within the meaning of the Act from April 1, 2008, alleged disability onset date, through October 6, 2010, the date of the ALJ’s decision. (TR 59).
The Plaintiff appealed the ALJ’s decision to the Appeals Council. On March 19, 2012, the Appeals Council remanded Plaintiff’s case back to the ALJ for further consideration of Plaintiff‘s claims for benefits. Specifically, the Appeals Council directed the ALJ to obtain additional evidence and update Plaintiff ‘s treatment records, to give further consideration to Plaintiff ‘s maximum RFC, and to obtain additional evidence from the vocational expert to clarify the effect of the assessed limitations on Plaintiff ‘s occupational base. (TR 11).
On October 3, 2012, ALJ Brady held an additional hearing. Plaintiff testified at the supplemental ALJ hearing and vocational expert Patricia Chilleri also testified at the hearing. (TR 415-430). On November 6, 2012, the ALJ issued another decision denying Plaintiff ‘s claims for benefits. The ALJ found that Plaintiff was not under a disability within the meaning of the Act from April 1, 2008, alleged disability onset date, through November 6, 2012, the date of the ALJ’s second decision. (TR 11-22).
The ALJ found that Plaintiff‘s severe impairments of status post left lower extremity (ankle) fracture with four open reduction internal fixation surgeries, multilevel lumbar disc bulge, left tarsal tunnel syndrome, and lumbago prevented Plaintiff from performing his past relevant work. (TR 14 & 20). The ALJ found that Plaintiff ‘s mental impairment of depression was not severe. (TR 14). Additionally, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the capacity to perform less than the full range of light work treated as sedentary work. (TR 15).
On November 30, 2012, Plaintiff appealed the ALJ’s decision of November 6, 2012, to the Appeals Council. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs appeal. The Plaintiff then initiated the instant civil action in this federal Court appealing the final decision of the Defendant. (Doc. 1).
For the reasons set forth below, we will recommend that the Plaintiffs appeal from the final decision of the Defendant Commissioner of Social Security denying his claims for DIB and SSI benefits be denied.
II. STANDARD OF REVIEW.
When reviewing the denial of disability benefits, we must determine whether the denial is supported by substantial evidence. Brown v. Bowen, 845 F.2d 1211, 1213 (3d Cir. 1988); Johnson v. Commissioner of Social Sec, 529 F.3d 198, 200 (3d Cir. 2008). 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 (1988); Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 360. (3d Cir. 1999); Johnson, 529 F.3d at 200. It is less than a preponderance of the evidence but more than a mere scintilla. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).
To receive disability benefits, the Plaintiff must demonstrate 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. § 432(d)(1)(A).
[a]n individual shall be determined to be under a disability only if [her] physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that [she] is not only unable to do [her] previous work but cannot, considering [her] age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which [she] lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for [her], or whether [she] would be hired if [she] applied for work. For purposes of the preceding sentence (with respect to any individual), “work which exists in the national economy” means work which exists in significant numbers either in the region where such individual lives or in several regions of the country.
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).
III. DISABILITY EVALUATION ...