United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
TIQUISHA S. GRIER, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
NORA BARRY FISCHER, District Judge.
On March 3, 2014, plaintiff Tiquisha S. Grier filed a complaint against the Commissioner of Social Security seeking judicial review of the denial of her application for Social Security Disability benefits and Supplemental Security Income benefits for a lack of disability. The case was referred to a United States Magistrate Judge for pretrial proceedings in accordance with the Magistrate Judges Act, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A) and (B), and Rules 72(C)(2) of the Local Rules for Magistrate Judges.
On September 2, 2014, the magistrate judge filed a Report and Recommendation, recommending that plaintiff's motion for summary judgment [ECF No. 8] be denied and the Defendant, the Commissioner of Social Security's motion for summary judgment [ECF No. 10] be granted. See Rep. and Rec. [ECF No. 15].
Service of the Report and Recommendation was made on the parties. The parties were informed that in accordance with the Magistrate Judges Act, 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and (C), and the Local Rule of Court 72.D.2, they had fourteen (14) days to file any objections. On September 18, 2014, plaintiff timely filed objections. [ECF No. 16]. On September 24, 2014, defendant filed a timely response to plaintiff's objections. [ECF No. 17].
Specifically, plaintiff objects on the grounds that the magistrate judge failed to address the ALJ's failure to "properly evaluate Plaintiff's impairment of migraine headaches[, ]" and "improperly ignored multiple GAF scores which were indicative of serious symptoms of Plaintiff's severe impairments." Pl.'s Obj. [ECF No. 16] at 10. As to her migraines, plaintiff argues that the ALJ's "determination of the severity of Plaintiff's migraine headaches was not supported by substantial medical evidence" and the ALJ "should have ordered a consultative physical examination to provide him with the evidence necessary to properly determine if this impairment was disabling." Id. at 14, 17. As for the GAF scores, plaintiff argues that the ALJ "cherry-picked" evidence by relying only on evidence that plaintiff "generally" has GAF scores of the high 50s to low 60s, and did not refer to Plaintiff's scores of 50 or below or that after October 2011 Plaintiff's GAF scores did not reach between Plaintiff's average range of 55-66. Id. at 20.
Relative to the standard of review in reviewing an administrative determination of the Commissioner, as discussed by the magistrate judge, "the question before any court is whether there is substantial evidence in the agency record to support the findings of the Commissioner that the plaintiff failed to sustain his/her burden of demonstrating that he/she was disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act." Rep. and Rec. [ECF No. 15] at 2.
The court shall have power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security, with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing. The findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.
42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
The term disability is defined as the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any 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 not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A)
In determining whether a claimant is disabled, the Commissioner applies a "five-step sequential evaluation." 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(1). The process is set forth as follows:
(i) At the first step, we consider your work activity, if any. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will find that you are not disabled....
(ii) At the second step, we consider the medical severity of your impairment(s). If you do not have a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the duration requirement in § 404.1509, or a combination of impairments that is severe and meets the duration requirement, we will find that you are not disabled....
(iii) At the third step, we also consider the medical severity of your impairment(s). If you have an impairment(s) that meets or equals one of our listings in appendix 1 of this subpart and meets the duration requirement, we will find that you are disabled....
(iv) At the fourth step, we consider our assessment of your residual functional capacity and your past relevant work. If you can still do your past relevant work, ...