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Page v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

September 30, 2014

DANIEL LEE PAGE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

OPINION and ORDER OF COURT

DONETTA W. AMBROSE, Senior District Judge.

SYNOPSIS

Daniel Lee Page ("Page") filed an application for Title II disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income based, in part, upon diabetes and degenerative joint disease. The ALJ issued a partially favorable decision. That is, Page was granted benefits under Title XVI - Supplemental Security Income - effective July 2, 2012. With respect to the claim for disability insurance benefits, however, the ALJ found that Page had not been disabled prior to July 2, 2012 and the date on which he had last met the insured status under Title II for purposes of Social Security Disability benefits was March 31, 2010. Lee then filed a request for review, which the Appeals Council denied. Dennison subsequently appealed under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

Before the Court are Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (Docket Nos. [8] and [12]). Both parties have filed Briefs in Support of their Motions. (Docket Nos. [9] and [13]). Plaintiff has also filed a Reply Brief. (Docket No. [15]). After careful consideration of the submissions of the parties, and based on my Opinion set forth below, the Plaintiff's Motion is granted in part. I am remanding this case on a limited issue as discussed more fully below.

I. BACKGROUND

Page offers July 29, 2009 as his disability onset date. See ECF Docket No. [9], p. 1.[1] (R. 24, 44) He was 55 years old at the time of the hearing, having been born on July 3, 1957. (R. 31) He attended school through the tenth grade and obtained his GED some years later. (R. 31) Although Page never attended trade school, his records indicate steady employment throughout his adult life in fields such as driving a tractor trailer (he holds a Class A CDL) (R. 32-35) and work as a constable (R. 35).

As stated above, the ALJ concluded that Page is disabled, but became so only on July 2, 2012. (R. 15) More specifically, the ALJ concluded that since the onset date of July 29, 2009, Page retained the residual functional capacity to perform light work with certain restrictions. (R. 17) As of July 2, 2012, however, Page's age category changed from "an individual closely approaching advanced age" to "an individual of advanced age." See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563 and 416.963. (R. 20) At that point in time, the ALJ determined, "considering the claimant's age, education, work experience and residual functional capacity, there are no jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant could perform." (R. 21), citing 20 C.F.R. § 404.1560(c), 404.1566, 416.960(c) and 416.966.

Page assigns several errors to the ALJ and requests the entry of benefits for the period of time beginning with the onset date. In the alternative, Page requests a remand to the ALJ for further consideration. For the reasons set forth below, Page's requests are granted in part and denied in part.

II. LEGAL ANALYSIS

A) Standard of Review

The standard of review in social security cases is whether substantial evidence exists in the record to support the Commissioner's decision. Allen v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 37, 39 (3d Cir. 1989). Substantial evidence has been defined as "more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate." Ventura v. Shalala, 55 F.3d 900, 901 (3d Cir. 1995), quoting Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). Additionally, the Commissioner's findings of fact, if supported by substantial evidence, are conclusive. 42 U.S.C. §405(g); Dobrowolsky v. Califano, 606 F.2d 403, 406 (3d Cir. 1979). A district court cannot conduct a de novo review of the Commissioner's decision or re-weigh the evidence of record. Palmer v. Apfel, 995 F.Supp. 549, 552 (E.D. Pa. 1998). Where the ALJ's findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence, a court is bound by those findings, even if the court would have decided the factual inquiry differently. Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir. 1999). To determine whether a finding is supported by substantial evidence, however, the district court must review the record as a whole. See, 5 U.S.C. §706.

To be eligible for social security benefits, the plaintiff must demonstrate that he cannot engage in substantial gainful activity because of a 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 at least 12 months. 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(1)(A); Brewster v. Heckler, 786 F.2d 581, 583 (3d Cir. 1986).

The Commissioner has provided the ALJ with a five-step sequential analysis to use when evaluating the disabled status of each claimant. 20 C.F.R. §404.1520(a). The ALJ must determine: (1) whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) if not, whether the claimant has a severe impairment; (3) if the claimant has a severe impairment, whether it meets or equals the criteria listed in 20 C.F.R., pt. 404, subpt. P., appx. 1; (4) if the impairment does not satisfy one of the impairment listings, whether the claimant's impairments prevent him from performing his past relevant work; and (5) if the claimant is incapable of performing his past relevant work, whether he can perform any other work which exists in the national economy, in light of his age, education, work experience and residual functional capacity. 20 C.F.R. §404.1520. The claimant carries the initial burden of demonstrating by medical evidence that he is unable to return to his previous employment (steps 1-4). Dobrowolsky, 606 F.2d at 406. Once the claimant meets this burden, the burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant can engage in alternative substantial gainful activity (step 5). Id.

A district court, after reviewing the entire record may affirm, modify, or reverse the decision with or without remand to the Commissioner for rehearing. Podedworny ...


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