United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
DONETTA W. AMBROSE, Senior District Judge.
Pending before the Court are Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF Nos. 9 and 11). Both parties have filed Briefs in Support of their Motions. (ECF Nos. 10 and 12). After careful consideration of the submissions of the parties, and based on my Opinion set forth below, I am denying Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 9) and granting Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 11).
Plaintiff brought this action for review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner") denying his application for supplemental security income ("SSI") and disability insurance benefits ("DIB") pursuant to the Social Security Act ("Act"). Plaintiff filed his applications alleging he had been disabled since February of 2011. (ECF No. 7-6, pp. 2, 9). Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"), Leslie Perry-Dowdell, held a hearing on August 14, 2012. (ECF No. 7-2, pp. 26-49). On October 18, 2012, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. (ECF No. 7-2, pp. 13-25).
After exhausting all administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed the instant action with this court. The parties have filed Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (Docket Nos. 9 and 11). The issues are now ripe for review.
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 v. Harris, 745 F.2d 210, 221 (3d Cir. 1984).
B. Weight of Evidence
Plaintiff first argues that the ALJ erred in rejecting the opinion of Dr. Lanny Detore, a one-time consulting examiner. (ECF No. 10, pp. 5-10). Specifically, Plaintiff submits that the ALJ misinterpreted the evidence. Id. As to Dr. Detore, the ALJ stated, in pertinent part, as follows:
The undersigned gives Dr. Detore's opinion little weight, as Dr. Detore clearly relied on the claimant's statements in formulating his opinion, and as noted above those statements are inconsistent with the record as a whole. Specifically, the undersigned notes the claimant reported to treating providers he is capable of managing his activities of daily living with little assistance, while he denied such to Dr. Detore (Exhibit 7F).
(ECF No. 7-2, p. 22). These are appropriate reasons for giving an opinion little weight. Plummer, 186 F.3d at 429; 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527 and § 416.927 (discussing the evaluation of medical opinions) . Furthermore, I note that "a medical source does not transform the claimant's subjective complaints into objective findings simply by recording them...." Hatton v. Comm'r, 131 F.App'x 877, 879 (3d Cir. 2005) (citation omitted). Upon review of the record, I find the ALJ's opinion is supported by substantial evidence. See, e.g. ECF No. 7-2, pp. 19-24. Therefore, remand is not warranted on this basis., 
C. Listing 12.04
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in determining that Plaintiff did not meet or equal an impairment listing. (ECF No. 10, pp. 10-11). In step three of the analysis set forth above, the ALJ must determine if the claimant's impairment meets or is equal to one of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R., Pt. 404, Subpt. P, Appx. 1.; Jesurum v. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 48 F.3d 114, 117 (3d Cir. 1995). An applicant is per se disabled if the impairment is equivalent to a ...