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Reinhart v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

August 27, 2014

BRYON J. REINHART, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, [1] Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

CYNTHIA REED EDDY, Magistrate Judge.

I. Introduction

Plaintiff Bryon J. Reinhart brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or "Commissioner") denying his applications for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act ("Act"). See 42 U.S.C §§ 401-434, 1381-1383(f). The parties have submitted cross motions for summary judgment and the record has been fully developed at the administrative proceedings. For the reasons which follow, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted in part and denied in part. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment will be denied. The decision of the Commissioner is vacated, and the matter remanded to the Commissioner for further proceedings in accordance with this Opinion.

II. Procedural History

Plaintiff protectively filed for DIB and SSI on September 15, 2010, alleging onset of disability on January 1, 2008. (R. at 150-162). The applications were denied by the state agency on January 4, 2011. (R. at 71-92). Plaintiff responded on January 20, 2011, by filing a timely request for an administrative hearing. (R. at 95-97). On April 10, 2012, an administrative hearing was held in Erie, Pennsylvania before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") William J. Bezego. (R. at 35-61). Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified. Id. Additionally, an impartial vocational expert, William H. Reed, Ph.D., testified at the hearing. Id.

In a decision dated April 17, 2012, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not "disabled" within the meaning of the Act since Plaintiff's alleged onset of disability, so his claims for disability benefits were denied. (R. at 18-30). The Appeals Counsel denied Plaintiff's request for review on June 28, 2013, thereby making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner in this case. (R. at 1-4).

Plaintiff commenced the present action on October 4, 2013, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. (ECF No. 5). Plaintiff and the Commissioner filed cross motions for summary judgment on February 13, 2014 and April 21, 2014, respectively. (ECF Nos. 12, 16). These motions are fully briefed and ripe for disposition.

III. Statement of Facts

A. Background

Plaintiff was born on November 15, 1964 and was 47 years old at the time of the administrative hearing.[2] (R. at 152).[3] Plaintiff did not graduate from high school, however, he subsequently obtained a general equivalency diploma. (R. at 56, 305). When Plaintiff was twenty-one years old, he was convicted of conspiracy to commit homicide and served the maximum prison sentence. (R. at 44). Plaintiff subsequently violated his parole by driving without a license and was remanded to jail for an additional two years. (R. at 306). Additionally, Plaintiff completed two court ordered, inpatient rehabilitation programs pertaining to his substance abuse. (R. at 306). However, at the hearing, Plaintiff asserted that he had not abused drugs or alcohol for nearly a year while living with his brother. (R. at 48).

From 1985 to 2007, Plaintiff worked as a construction worker. (R. at 182, 188-189). Plaintiff also worked as a plastics assembler from 2005 to 2007. Id. Plaintiff has not worked since December 31, 2007, and has alleged an onset of disability on the following day, January 1, 2008. (R. at 152, 159).

B. Medical History

1. Physical Health Treatment

The medical record provides that Plaintiff has had extensive medical treatment relating to several medical impairments. Initially, in April 2009, Plaintiff was seen by his primary care physician, Joseph W. Mercurio, D.O., and reported chronic and worsening neck, back, and right hip pain and joint stiffness as well as hypertension, depression, and anxiety. (R. at 244, 260-261). The medical tests performed on Plaintiff revealed minor degenerative disc disease of the neck and lumbar spine, but no abnormalities of the right hip. (R. at 262-264, 265-267, 275-283). In addition to treatment with Dr. Mecurio, Plaintiff has treated with at least five different physicians regarding his hip, neck, and back pain. (R. at 270, 273-275, ...


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