United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
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 December 11, 2013, Nick Cecil, Jr. by his counsel, filed a complaint pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §405(g) for review of the Commissioner's final determination disallowing his claim for a period of disability or for disability insurance benefits under Sections 216(i) and 223 of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§416(i) and 423.
On January 7, 2011, the plaintiff filed an application for disability benefits alleging that he had been disabled since January 6, 2010 (R.157-165), and benefits were denied on April 13, 2011 (R. 101-118). On June 2, 2011, the plaintiff requested a hearing (R.119) and pursuant to that request a hearing was held on May 25, 2012 (R.27-100). In a decision dated June 12, 2012, benefits were denied (R.9-21), and on August 9, 2012, reconsideration was requested (R.7). Upon reconsideration and in a decision dated October 18, 2013, the Appeals Council affirmed the prior determination (R.1-5). On December 11, 2013, the instant complaint was filed.
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 burden of demonstrating that he 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. Comm'r. 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).
At the hearing held on May 25, 2012 (R. 27-100), the plaintiff appeared with counsel and testified that he was born on August 30, 1976 (R.37); that he completed high school and received masonry training (R.39, 40); that he received public assistance (R.40); that he last worked on January 6, 2010 the day he was in a car accident (R.41) and that he worked as a horse hauler, concrete truck driver and steel mill melter (R.46)
The plaintiff also testified that he has a rod in his leg (R.49); that his right leg is shorter and as a result he is off balance and experiences pain (R.50); that he also experiences back and neck pain (R.51, 60, 65, 66); that he becomes shaky from his medication (R.53, 77); that since his accident he experiences seizures which are medically controlled as well as panic attacks, anxiety and depression (R.55-56, 59, 69); that his medication makes him sleepy (R.63); that he can only walk short distances and uses a cane (R.71, 72); that he can stand or sit for about twenty minutes (R.73-74); that he can lift ten to fifteen pounds (R.74-75); that he performs some cooking and laundry chores (R.80, 81) that he has difficulty sleeping (R.83) and that he lays down to rests a few times a day (R.87).
At the hearing a vocational expert was called upon to testify (R.89-98). The witness described the plaintiff's prior work as medium to heavy, unskilled to semi-skilled in nature (R.90-91). When asked to consider an individual of the plaintiff's age, education and prior work experience who is capable of light work, the witness testified that such a person could not perform any of the plaintiff's prior jobs (R.91-92). However, he did testify that there were a number of jobs such an individual could perform (R.92) but that these jobs could not be performed using a cane (R.92-93). The witness also testified that such an individual could perform a wide range of sedentary work (R.93-94). If such an individual had to consistently take off more than two days a month or had to be off-task resting more than ten percent of the time, or had severe limitations on his working ability the witness testified he would not be employable (R.95-98).
The issue before the Court for immediate resolution is a determination of whether or not there is substantial evidence to support the findings of the Commissioner that the plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act.
The term "disability" is defined in 42 U.S.C. Section 423(d)(1)(A) as:
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. Section 423(d)(3). These provisions are also applied for purposes of establishing a period of disability. 42 U.S.C. Section 416(i)(2)(A).
While these statutory provisions have been regarded as "very harsh, " nevertheless, they must be followed by the courts. NLRB v. Staiman Brothers , 466 F.2d 564 (3d Cir. 1972); Choratch v. Finch , 438 F.2d 342 (3d Cir. 1971); Woods v. Finch , 428 F.2d 469 (3d Cir. 1970). Thus, it must be determined whether or not there is substantial evidence in the record to support the conclusion ...