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Favale v. Colvin

United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania

April 29, 2014

PHILIP FAVALE, Plaintiff
v.
CAROLYN COLVIN,[1]Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration Defendant

MEMORANDUM

MALACHY E. MANNION United States District Judge

The record in this action, (Doc. 7), has been reviewed pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g) to determine whether there is substantial evidence to support the Commissioner’s decision denying the plaintiff’s claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under the Social Security Act, (“Act”). 42 U.S.C. §§401-433, 1381-1383f.

I. PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiff Philip Favale protectively applied to the Social Security Administration for DIB under the Act on February 15, 2010. The Administration denied plaintiff’s claim on May 25, 2010, finding that plaintiff was not disabled. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), which was held on May 9, 2011 in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Plaintiff was represented by counsel. (Tr. 22). In addition to the plaintiff’s testimony, the ALJ heard testimony from a vocational expert. (“VE”). (Tr. 31-35). On June 14, 2011, the ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act. (Tr. 12-18).

Plaintiff requested review of the ALJ’s decision. (Tr. 8). On October 4, 2012, the Appeals Council denied the request for review. (Tr. 1-4). Thus, the ALJ’s decision became the final decision of the Commissioner. 42 U.S.C. §405(g). Plaintiff filed the instant appeal of the Commissioner’s decision on October 25, 2012. (Doc. 1). The parties have filed briefs in support of their respective positions. (Docs. 8, 9).

II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

When reviewing the denial of disability benefits, the court 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). Furthermore,

[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 DETERMINATION PROCESS

A five-step process is required to determine if an applicant is disabled under the Act. The Commissioner must sequentially determine: (1) whether the applicant is engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) whether the applicant has a severe impairment; (3) whether the applicant’s impairment meets or equals a listed impairment; (4) whether the applicant's impairment prevents the applicant from doing past relevant work, and; (5) whether the applicant’s impairment prevents the applicant from doing any other work. 20 C.F.R. §§404.1520, 416.920.

Here, the ALJ determined that claimant has a severe impairment, but retains the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a range of light work, and that ...


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