United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
LOUIS V. ESPOSITO, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION RE: CROSS-MOTIONS FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (DOC. NOS. 9 AND 11)
ARTHUR J. SCHWAB, District Judge.
Plaintiff, Louis V. Esposito ("Plaintiff") brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the Social Security Act (the "Act"), seeking judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or "Commissioner") denying his application for Social Security disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and supplemental security income benefits ("SSI"). The parties have submitted Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment on the record developed at the administrative proceedings. For the following reasons, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 9) will be granted in part and denied in part. The Commissioner's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 11) will be denied, and the administrative decision of the Commissioner will be vacated and remanded for further proceedings consistent with this Memorandum Opinion.
II. Procedural History
On or around February 28, 2012, Plaintiff protectively applied for DIB and SSI, alleging disability beginning January 1, 2005 due to hypertension and mental impairments. (R. 15, 82-89, 93.) The alleged onset date was subsequently amended to December 1, 2005. (R. 274.) The claim was initially denied on August 9, 2012. (R. at 63-67.) Plaintiff then requested, and received, an administrative hearing, which was held on December 4, 2013 in New Castle, Pennsylvania, before Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") John J. Porter. (R. at 61-62, 273-90.) Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel, appeared and testified at the hearing. (R. at 275-86.) Fred Monaco, an impartial vocational expert ("VE"), also testified. (R. at 286-89.) In a decision dated January 16, 2014, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act and denied benefits. (R. at 12-25.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on May 23, 2014 (R. at 5-7), thereby rendering the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner in this case.
Plaintiff commenced the present action on July 16, 2014, seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's decision. (ECF No. 1.) Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on November 14, 2014. (ECF No. 9.) Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment on December 17, 2014. (ECF No. 11.) These motions are the subject of this Memorandum Opinion.
III. Statement of the Case
A. The ALJ's Decision
In his decision denying Plaintiff's application for DIB and SSI benefits, the ALJ made the following findings:
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through September 30, 2011. (R. 17.)
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 1, 2005, the amended alleged onset date (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1571 et seq. and 416.971 et seq. ). (R. at 17.)
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments: depression and anxiety (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)). (R. at 17.)
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926). (R. at 18.)
5. The claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: the claimant is limited to simple, routine, and repetitive tasks that are not fast paced and involve only simple work decisions. The claimant can have only incidental collaborations with coworkers and the public. He can collaborate with supervisors for 30 minutes per workday. Collaboration is defined as actively working together and not just being in proximity to others. (R. 20.)
6. The claimant is unable to perform any past relevant work (20 C.F.R. §§404.1565 and 416.965). (R. at 23.)
7. The claimant was born on May 6, 1962 and was 43 years old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on the alleged disability onset date (20 C.F.R. §§404.1563 and 416.963). (R. at 23.)
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is able to communicate in English (20 C.F.R. §§404.1564 and 416.964). (R. at 24.)
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the determination of disability because using the Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding that the claimant is "not disabled, " whether or not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41 and 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2). (R. at 24.)
10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that the claimant can perform (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1569, 404.1569(a), 416.969 and 416.969(a)). (R. at 24.)
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from December 1, 2005, through the date of the decision (20 C.F.R. §§404.1520(g) and § 416.920(g)). (R. at 25.)
B. Background Facts and Medical evidence
Plaintiff is a high school graduate with past relevant work experience as a sales representative/stock worker, restaurant manager, and fast food restaurant assistant manager. (R. 23, 94, 275-76, 287-88.) He was 43 years old at the time of his alleged disability onset and 51 years-old as of the date of the ALJ's decision. (R. 23, 275)
1. Treatment Notes and Assessments from the Office of Mark Matta, D.O.
Since 2003, Plaintiff has been treated at the office of Mark Matta., D.O., Psych-Med Associates. (R. 256-66.) Plaintiff was initially seen once in December 2003 and January 2004 ...