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Jackson v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

April 18, 2014

EVELYN D. JACKSON, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM and ORDER

ROBERT C. MITCHELL, Magistrate Judge.

Presently before the Court for disposition are cross motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the plaintiff's motion (ECF 12) will be denied, the defendant's motion (ECF 14) will be granted and the decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed.

On September 12, 2013, Evelyn D. Jackson, by her counsel, filed a complaint pursuant to Sections 205(g) and 1631(c)(3) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§405(g) and 1383(c)(3) for review of the Commissioner's final determination disallowing her claim for a period of disability or for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits under Sections 216(i) and 223 of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§416(i) and 423 and 1381 cf.

The plaintiff filed an application for disability and supplemental security income benefits on July 13, 2010 (R.121-126). Benefits were denied on October 14, 2010 (R61-70). On November 22, 2010, the plaintiff requested a hearing (R.73-74), and pursuant to that request a hearing was conducted on January 5, 2012 (R.26-48). In a decision filed on February 7, 2012, an Administrative Law Judge denied benefits (R.10-22). On February 27, 2012, the plaintiff requested reconsideration of this determination (R.7-9), and upon reconsideration, and in a decision dated July 29, 2013, the Appeals Council affirmed the prior decision (R.7-9). The instant complaint was filed on September 12, 2013.

In reviewing an administrative determination of the Commissioner, the question before any court is whether there is substantial evidence in the agency record to support the findings of the Commissioner that the plaintiff failed to sustain his/her burden of demonstrating that he/she was disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.

It is provided in 42 U.S.C. Section 405(g) that:

The court shall have power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing. The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive....

Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, Johnson v. Commissioner , 529 F.3d 198 (3d Cir.2008) and the court may not set aside a decision supported by substantial evidence. Hartranft v. Apfel , 181 F.3d 358 (3d Cir.1999).

Presently before the Court for resolution is a determination of whether or not there is substantial evidence to support the findings of the Commissioner that the plaintiff is not disabled within the meaning of the Act.

At the hearing held on January 5, 2012 (R.26-48), the plaintiff appeared with counsel (R. 28), and testified that she was a high school graduate (R.29); that she worked as a home health worker and county assessor (R.30) and that she last worked in 2010 (R.30).

The plaintiff also testified that she was involved in a car accident on May 28, 2010 and as a result experienced neck and back pain (R.31-32); that she experiences knee pain for which she receives injections (R.33, 39); that she had vascular surgery performed on her legs (R.33-34); that she broke her leg in 2009 (R.37-38); that she experiences depression (R.42); that she uses marijuana and Tylenol for pain (R.35-37); that she uses a cane occasionally (R.39); that she cannot put weight on her legs two or three days a week (R.40); that she can sit for about an hour and walk four or five blocks (R.41) and that she experiences sleep difficulty (R.44).

At the hearing a vocational expert was called upon to testify (R.45-47). He classified the plaintiff's prior work as light to heavy and unskilled to semi-skilled (R.45).When asked to assume an individual of the plaintiff's age, education, and prior work experience who was capable of performing moderately complex tasks at the sedentary level he testified that such an individual could perform some of plaintiff's prior work (R.46). However, when asked to assume an individual who was limited to light repetitive work, he testified that such an individual could not perform any of the plaintiff's past work (R. 46).

The issue before the Court is whether or not the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence.

The term "disability" is defined in 42 U.S.C. Section 423(d)(1)(A) as the:

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....

For purposes of the foregoing, the requirements for a disability determination are provided in 42 U.S.C. Section 423(d)(2)(A):

An individual shall be determined to be under a disability only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his 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 he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work. For purposes of the preceding sentence... "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.

A "physical or mental impairment" is "an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques." 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(3). These provisions are also applied for ...


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