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Taylor v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 6, 2015

DARRYL F. TAYLOR, Plaintiff
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant

For Darryl Taylor, Plaintiff: David F Chermol, LEAD ATTORNEY, Chermol & Fishman, Philadelphia, PA; Karl E. Osterhout, LEAD ATTORNEY, Osterhout Disability Law, LLC, Oakmont, PA.

For Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant: G. Michael Thiel, U.S. Attorney's Office, Scranton, PA.

MALACHY E. MANNION, United States District Judge. Mehalchick, M.J.

MEMORANDUM

MALACHY E. MANNION, United States District Judge.

Pending before the court is the report and recommendation of Judge Mehalchick, (Doc. 15), recommending that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (" ALJ" ) be affirmed. Judge Mehalchick reviewed the record in this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to determine whether there is substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision denying the plaintiff's claim for Supplemental Security Income (" SSI" ) under the Social Security Act, (" Act" ). 42 U.S.C. § § 401-433, 1381-1383f. Plaintiff has filed objections to the report and recommendation. (Doc. 16). Defendant responded to those objections. (Doc. 17).

I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

When objections are timely filed to the report and recommendation of a magistrate judge, the district court must review de novo those portions of the report to which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Brown v. Astrue, 649 F.3d 193, 195 (3d Cir. 2011). Although the standard is de novo, the extent of review is committed to the sound discretion of the district judge, and the court may rely on the recommendations of the magistrate judge to the extent it deems proper. Rieder v. Apfel, 115 F.Supp.2d 496, 499 (M.D.Pa. 2000) (citing United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 676, 100 S.Ct. 2406, 65 L.Ed.2d 424 (1980)).

For those sections of the report and recommendation to which no objection is made, the court should, as a matter of good practice, " satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b), advisory committee notes; see also Univac Dental Co. v. Dentsply Intern., Inc., 702 F.Supp.2d 465, 469 (M.D.Pa. 2010) ( citing Henderson v. Carlson, 812 F.2d 874, 878 (3d Cir. 1987) (explaining judges should give some review to every report and recommendation)). Nevertheless, whether timely objections are made or not, the district court may accept, not accept, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Local Rule 72.31.

II. DISCUSSION

As more fully set forth in Judge Mehalchick's report, plaintiff Darryl Taylor applied for SSI alleging serious heart problems, hypertension, depression, and vision issues. A hearing was held before an ALJ. Plaintiff, represented by counsel, and a vocational expert (" VE" ) testified at the hearing. The ALJ denied plaintiff's application on April 27, 2012, after finding that he retained the ability to meet the demands of his past relevant work as a fast food worker. (Doc. 11-2, at 11-19). The ALJ determined that plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (" RFC" ) to perform the full range of medium work, to lift, carry, push, or pull 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently, to stand or walk for six hours and sit for six to eight hours in an eight-hour workday, to complete simple one or two-step tasks, and to have superficial contact with co-workers, supervisors, and the public.

Plaintiff requested review by the Appeals Council, which denied his request on September 23, 2013. Plaintiff filed this complaint on November 20, 2013, requesting that the ALJ's decision be remanded for further proceedings.

As Judge Mehalchick's report explains, when reviewing the denial of disability benefits, the court must determine whether the denial is supported by substantial evidence. Brown v. Bowen, 845 F.2d 1211, 1213 (3d Cir. 1988); Johnson v. Commissioner of Social Sec., 529 F.3d 198, 200 (3d Cir. 2008). Substantial evidence " does not mean a large or considerable amount of evidence, but rather such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 108 S.Ct. 2541, 101 L.Ed.2d 490 (1988); Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir. 1999), Johnson, 529 F.3d at 200. It is less than a preponderance of the evidence but more than a mere scintilla. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971).

Judge Mehalchick's report also details the five-step process that is required to determine if an applicant is disabled under the Act. The Commissioner must sequentially determine: (1) whether the applicant is engaged in substantial gainful activity; (2) whether the applicant has a severe impairment; (3) whether the applicant's impairment meets or equals a listed impairment; (4) whether the applicant's impairment prevents the applicant from doing past relevant work, and; (5) whether the applicant's impairment prevents the applicant from doing any other work. 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520, 416.920.

Here, plaintiff contends in his appeal that the ALJ failed to discuss or weigh two medical source opinions in the record - those of Dr. John Kelsey, the psychological consultative examiner, and Dr. Frank Mrykalo, the state agency psychologist. He argues that as a result of this failure, the ALJ's determination of his RFC is not supported by substantial evidence. Dr. Mrykalo found that plaintiff had moderate limitations in his ability to understand and remember detailed instructions, carry out detailed instructions, maintain attention and concentration for extended periods, interact appropriately with the public and supervisors, and complete a normal workday and workweek without being interrupted by psychological symptoms and perform at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number of rest periods. (Tr. 571-72, ...


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