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Barber v. Colvin

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

September 30, 2014

MICHAELIA RENYA BARBER, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

OPINION and ORDER OF COURT

DONETTA W. AMBROSE, District Judge.

SYNOPSIS

Michaelia Renya Barber ("Barber") filed an application for supplemental security income ("SSI"), based in part, upon attention deficit disorder and anxiety.[1] Her claim was denied following a hearing and the Appeals Council denied her request for review. Barber then filed this appeal under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

Before the Court are Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (Docket Nos. [9] and [13]). Both parties have filed Briefs in Support of their Motions. (Docket Nos. [10] and [14]). After careful consideration of the submissions of the parties, and based on my Opinion set forth below, I am granting the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment and denying the Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment.

I. BACKGROUND

Barber was born on May 22, 1982, making her a "younger individual" at the time of the hearing. (R. 45) She is single, has two children ages seven and ten, and lives with her parents and grandmother. (R. 45, 50). Although she did not graduate from high school, she obtained her GED and subsequently received a certificate for computer training from the Private Industry Council. (R. 46) She has no past relevant work. (R. 49) Barber alleges a disability beginning on January 1, 2009.

As stated above, the ALJ denied Barber's request for benefits. Specifically, the ALJ determined that Barber retained the residual functional capacity to perform light work with some modifications. Specifically, the ALJ imposed certain postural and environmental restrictions and added that Barber "should work in a low-stress environment with no production line or assembly line type of pace and no independent decision making responsibilities, she would be restricted to unskilled work involving only routine and repetitive instructions and tasks; she should have no interaction with the general public; and she should have no more than occasional interaction with co-workers or supervisors." (R. 30) Barber appeals.

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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