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Terrell v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

July 10, 2014

LADEA PRESTESHIA TERRELL, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, [1] COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

MARK R. HORNAK, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff, Ladea Presteshia Terrell, brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c), for judicial review of the final deteiinination of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying her application for supplemental security income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383(f).

II. BACKGROUND

A. Facts

Plaintiff was born on December 2, 1986, (Tr. 135), attended school through the eighth grade, and then took classes at a trade school but did not graduate, id. at 60. She worked for a short period of time as a grocery store cashier, restaurant food preparer, and as a packager at a warehouse. Id. at 50, 60. Plaintiff alleges disability as of February 15, 2009, [2] due to systemic lupus erythematosus, [3] rheumatoid arthritis, and hypertension. Id, at 150. The record reflects that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful work activity since alleging disability. Id. at 29.

B. Procedural History

Plaintiff protectively filed an application for SSI on November 20, 2009. Id. at 135. An administrative hearing was held on September 15, 2011, before Administrative Law Judge Michael F. Colligan ("ALJ"). Id. at 55. Plaintiff was represented by counsel and testified at the hearing. Id. Charles M. Cohen, an impartial vocational expert ("VE"), also testified at the hearing. Id.

On November 10, 2011, the ALJ rendered a decision unfavorable to Plaintiff in which he found that, considering her age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity ("RFC"), Plaintiff retained the ability to perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy, and therefore, Plaintiff was not "disabled" within the meaning of the Act. Id. at 50-51. The ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner on February 11, 2013, when the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request to review the decision of the ALJ.

On April 5, 2013, Plaintiff filed her Complaint in this Court in which she seeks judicial review of the ALJ's decision. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred: 1) when he found that Plaintiff did not meet Listing 14.02; 2) by not applying the appropriate legal standard in arriving a residual functional capacity finding; and 3) by improperly relying on the vocational expert's testimony. Pl.'s Mem. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. ("Pl.'s Mem."), ECF No. 10, at 1. The Commissioner contends that the decision of the ALJ should be affirmed because it is supported by substantial evidence. Def.'s Br. in Supp. of Mot. for Summ. J. ("Def.'s Br."), ECF No. 12, at 16. 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. §§ 1383(c)(3); 405(g). 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 Consol. Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). It consists of more than a scintilla of evidence, but less than a preponderance. Thomas v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 625 F.3d 798, 800 (3d Cir. 2010).[4]

When resolving the issue of whether an adult claimant is or is not disabled, the Commissioner utilizes a five-step sequential evaluation. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. This process requires the Commissioner to consider, in sequence, whether a claimant (1) is working; (2) has a severe impairment; (3) has an impairment that meets or equals the requirements of a listed impairment; (4) can return to his or her past relevant work; and (5) if not, whether he or she can perform other work. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920; Newell v. ...


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