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Joyce v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 22, 2014

KEVIN L. JOYCE
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security

For KEVIN L. JOYCE, Plaintiff: JASON L. THOMPSON, LEAD ATTORNEY, LEVENTHAL, SUTTON & GORNSTEIN, HORIZON CORPORATE CENTER, TREVOSE, PA.

For CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF SSA, Defendant: ANDREW C. LYNCH, SSA/OGC REGION 3, PHILADELPHIA, PA.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

JACOB P. HART, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

Kevin Joyce brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to obtain review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying his claim for Disability Insurance Benefits. He has filed a Request for Review to which the Commissioner has responded. As set forth below, I recommend that Joyce's Request for Review be denied, and judgment entered in favor of the Defendant.

I. Factual and Procedural Background

Joyce was born on February 6, 1953. Record at 137. He completed high school and college. Record at 151. In the past, he worked for many years as a truck driver, but also for six years as a high school social studies teacher. Id. On August 12, 2010, Joyce filed an application for benefits, alleging disability since May 9, 2009, as a result of injury to his left shoulder, left arm, back, neck, pelvis, and both knees, as well as the partial amputation of his right thumb. Record at 137, 151.

Joyce's application was denied on November 18, 2010. Record at 83. He then sought de novo review by an Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ"). Record at 90. A hearing took place on January 4, 2012. Record at 50. In a written decision dated January 20, 2012, however, the ALJ denied benefits. Record at 38. The Appeals Council denied Joyce's request for review, permitting the ALJ's decision to stand as the final decision of the Commissioner. Record at 29. Joyce then filed this action.

II. Legal Standards

The role of this court on judicial review is to determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971); Doak v. Heckler, 790 F.2d 26, 28 (3d Cir. 1986); Newhouse v. Heckler, 753 F.2d 283, 285 (3d Cir. 1985). Substantial evidence is relevant evidence viewed objectively as adequate to support a decision. Richardson v. Perales, supra at 401; Kangas v. Bowen, 823 F.2d 775 (3d Cir. 1987); Dobrowolsky v. Califano, 606 F.2d 403 (3d Cir. 1979). Moreover, apart from the substantial evidence inquiry, a reviewing court must also ensure that the ALJ applied the proper legal standards. Coria v. Heckler, 750 F.2d 245 (3d Cir. 1984).

To prove disability, a claimant must demonstrate that there is some " medically determinable basis for an impairment that prevents him from engaging in any 'substantial gainful activity' for a statutory twelve-month period." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1). As explained in the following agency regulation, each case is evaluated by the Commissioner according to a five-step process:

(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, we will find that you are not disabled. (v). At the fifth and last step, we consider our assessment of your residual functional capacity and your age, education and work experience to see if you can make an adjustment to other work. If you can make an adjustment to other work, we will find that you are not disabled. If you cannot make an adjustment to other work, we will find that you are disabled.

20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (references to other regulations omitted).

III. The ALJ's Decision and Joyce's Request for Review

In his decision, the ALJ determined that Joyce suffered from the severe impairments of " left shoulder rotator cuff tendinopathy, degenerative joint disease on the left shoulder's AC joint, history of bilateral knee surgery, status post-arthroscopic surgery on the left shoulder, history of ocular migraine headaches, partial amputation of the right thumb, and history of left elbow injury." Record at 40. He found that none of ...


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