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Greggs v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

June 26, 2014

JESSICA E. GREGGS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, [1] COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

MARK R. HORNAK, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Jessica E. Greggs, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and 1383(c), for judicial review of the final determination of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") that denied her application for supplemental security income ("SSI")/disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. § 401-403; 1381-1383(t). Cross-motions for summary judgment have been filed. The Motion of the Commissioner will be granted, and that of Plaintiff denied.

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

Plaintiff was born on October 23, 1987. (R.129). She completed high school and some vocational training in the culinary arts, id. at 211-12, and has worked as an assembly laborer in manufacturing, as a dishwasher and cook, and as a restaurant hostess, id. at 205. The record reflects that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful work activity since January of 2008. Id.

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on March 30, 2009, CR. 129, 200), and an application for SSI on April 9, 2010, id. at 136, alleging disability due to a left knee injury and depression, with an alleged onset date of January 29, 2008, id. at 204. The state agency denied Plaintiffs claims on October 30, 2009. Id. at 76. An administrative hearing was held on March 15, 2011, before Administrative Law Judge Douglas Cohen ("ALJ"). Id. at 31. Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified at the hearing. Id. at 32. Plaintiffs mother, Carol Greggs, and George Starosta, an impartial vocational expert ("VE"), also testified at the hearing. Id. at 31, 56, 65.

On April 28, 2011, the ALJ rendered a decision unfavorable to Plaintiff, finding that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of a left knee injury, a back disorder, and a mood disorder, but determined that these impairments did not meet or medically equal a listed impairment. Id. 12-15. The ALJ found that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform light exertional activity allowing for no more than two (2) hours of standing and walking in an eight (8) hour work day, with an option to sit or stand at will. Id. at 15. The ALJ also found that Plaintiff could occasionally climb ramps and stairs, as well as balance, stoop, and crouch, but could never crawl or kneel. Id.

Plaintiff was further limited to "simple, routine, repetitive tasks, not performed in a fast-paced production environment, involving only simple, work-related decisions, and in general, relatively few workplace changes, " and "occupations not involving high levels of stress, i.e., those requiring independent decision-making or occupations subject to close supervision or close interaction with coworkers or the general public." Id. Given that the VE confirmed that the national economy contained significant numbers of jobs that comported with these limitations and were appropriate to Plaintiffs age, educational background, and work history, id. at 66-67, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not "disabled" within the meaning of the Act, id. at 23.

The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on November 27, 2012, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request to review the decision of the ALJ. Id. at 1-5. On January 10, 2013, Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this Court, seeking judicial review of the decision of the ALJ The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred in failing to properly assess valid medical evidence of record. Pl.'s Br. in SUpp. of Summ. J. ("PI.'s Br."), ECF No. 11, at 5. The Commissioner contends that the decision of the ALJ should be affirmed as it is supported by substantial evidence. The Court agrees with the Commissioner and will therefore grant the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the Commissioner and deny the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiff.

III. LEGAL ANALYSIS

A. Standard of Review

The Act limits judicial review of disability claims to the Commissioner's final decision. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g); 1383(c)(3). If the Commissioner's finding is supported by substantial evidence, it is conclusive and must be affirmed by the Court. 42 U.S.c. § 405(g); Rutherford v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546, 552 (3d Cir. 2005). The United States Supreme Court has defined "substantial evidence" as "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Com'r of. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 ...


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