United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
MAUREEN P. KELLY, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Melanie Lynn Miller ("Plaintiff") brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("the Commissioner") disallowing her claim for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act ("the Act"), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433.
Presently before the Court are cross-motions for summary judgment submitted by the parties. For the reasons that follow, it is respectfully recommended that the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Plaintiff, ECF No. 12, be denied, the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by Defendant, ECF No. 14, be granted, and the decision of the Commissioner denying Plaintiff's application for DIB be affirmed.
A. Procedural History
Plaintiff protectively filed an application for benefits on September 28, 2010, claiming an onset of disability of January 2, 2010 (Tr. 131-33). The Social Security Administration denied her claim on December 10, 2010, and on January 10, 2011, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ") (Tr. 70-73, 77-78).
A hearing was held on November 1, 2011, at which time Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel (Tr. 38), and Mark Heckman, a vocational expert ("VE"), were called to testify (Tr. 36-67). The ALJ issued a decision on January 31, 2012 (Tr. 18-34), finding that, although Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work, she is capable of making a successful adjustment to other work that exists in significant numbers in the national economy and thus is not disabled as defined under the Act (Tr. 29, 30). Plaintiff filed a request for review with the Appeals Council on March 12, 2012. The request was denied on July 30, 2013 (Tr. 1-5, 16), thus rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner.
B. Hearing Testimony
At the administrative hearing, Plaintiff testified that she was born on March 6, 1979, and thus was thirty-two years old at the time of the hearing (Tr. 43, 131). Plaintiff also testified that she was single, had no children, lived alone in an apartment and was receiving welfare (Tr. 42-43). Plaintiff allowed that she did not have a driver's license and was dependent upon her mother and her boyfriend to "get around" (Tr. 43). Plaintiff completed high school (Tr. 43, 148), and previously worked as a nurse's aide, a cashier and at a fast food restaurant (Tr. 44-45). Plaintiff has not worked since January 2, 2010, claiming that she has trouble concentrating, completing tasks, getting along with co-workers and that she cannot handle the everyday stress of working (Tr. 42, 46).
Plaintiff testified that she first sought mental health treatment in August of 2010 - seven months after she stopped working - and sees a therapist at Southwestern Pennsylvania Health Services ("SPHS") Behavioral Health once a month for therapy and medication checks which she takes for depression and sleep (Tr. 46-48). It also appears that a caseworker from Westmoreland Case Management comes to Plaintiff's home twice a month and helps her with a budget, talks about Plaintiff's goals with her and takes her shopping. The case worker also assisted Plaintiff in filling out her application for social security benefits (Tr. 48-49). Plaintiff was unable to state whether or not any of her doctors had placed any restrictions on her work activity (Tr. 46).
Plaintiff also testified that there is nothing physically wrong with her and that she has no physical symptoms (Tr. 49). Plaintiff, however, stated that she has problems with memory and cannot remember what she has done from day to day. She did allow, however, that she writes things down on a calendar so she does not forget to do something (Tr. 50). Plaintiff also stated that she has problems with maintaining attention and concentration and, at times, does not comprehend what is going on when she's watching a television show and sometimes forgets that she has put clothes in the washer or dryer (Tr. 50-51).
In addition, Plaintiff testified that she sometimes has trouble understanding instructions, that she had trouble completing all of her assigned tasks while working as a nurse's aide, and that she has problems making decisions such as deciding whether she should take the apartment she lives in (Tr. 51). Plaintiff allowed that she generally gets along with people but has trouble getting along with co-workers citing to one particular incident at the Latrobe Care Center when a co-worker "sort of made [her] upset" by telling Plaintiff what to do and acting like she was Plaintiff's boss (Tr. 52-53). Plaintiff indicated, however, that she has no trouble getting along with her supervisors or bosses (Tr. 53). She also testified that her difficulty completing tasks in her past jobs frequently caused co-workers and/or supervisors to tell her that she was not keeping up and that, rather than say anything to them, she would go home and cry about it (Tr. 61).
Although it is unclear for how long, it appears that Plaintiff had moved in with her aunt for a period of time in order to take of her which included helping her aunt prepare meals, ...