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MacKlin v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

April 6, 2015

INGRID JUNE MACKLIN, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

ROBERT C. MITCHELL, Magistrate Judge.

Presently before the Court for disposition are cross motions for summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the plaintiff's motion (ECF. No.11) will be denied, the defendant's motion (ECF. No.13) will be granted and the decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed.

On July 28, 2014, Ingrid June Macklin, by her counsel, filed a complaint pursuant to Sections 205(g) and 1631(c)(3) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§405(g) and 1383(c)(3) for review of the Commissioner's final determination disallowing her claim for a period of disability or for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income benefits under Sections 216(i) and 223 of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§416(i) and 423 and 1381 cf.

The plaintiff filed an application for disability and supplemental security income benefits on January 11, 2012 (R.126-136). Benefits were denied on March 21, 2012 (R.66-75). On April 9, 2012, the plaintiff requested a hearing (R.78-79), and pursuant to that request a hearing was conducted on June 19, 2013 (R.23-43). In a decision filed on September 11, 2013, an Administrative Law Judge denied benefits (R.12-22). On November 12, 2013, the plaintiff requested reconsideration of this determination (R.9-11), and upon reconsideration, and in a decision dated May 23, 2014, the Appeals Council affirmed the prior decision (R.1-3). The instant complaint was filed on July 28, 2014.

In reviewing an administrative determination of the Commissioner, 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..

It is provided in 42 U.S.C. Section 405(g) that:

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....

Substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion. Johnson v. Comm'r. 529 F.3d 198 (3d Cir.2008) and the court may not set aside a decision supported by substantial evidence. Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358 (3d Cir.1999)

Presently before the Court for resolution is a determination of whether or not there is substantial evidence to support the findings of the Commissioner that the plaintiff is not disabled within the meaning of the Act.

At the hearing held on June 19, 2013 (R.23-43), the plaintiff appeared with counsel (R. 25), and testified that she was fifty-four years old (R.27); had earned a college degree (R.27); worked as a certified nursing assistant in December 2011 (R.28); that she cannot lift or transfer patients (R.29) and that she was then working ten hours a week at the rate of two hours a day (R.29).

The plaintiff also testified that she attended cardiac rehabilitation (R.30); that she has diabetes and as a result tires easily (R.30); that she experiences shortness of breath from exertion (R.32); that her feet become numb (R.35) that she takes medication for diabetes and neuropathy (R.31, 35) and that she can perform household chores for about thirty to forty-five minutes before resting (R.37).

At the hearing a vocational expert was called upon to testify (R.38-42). She described the plaintiff's prior work as unskilled to semi-skilled at the light to medium exertional levels (R.40). When the witness was asked to assume an individual of the plaintiff's age, education and prior work experience who could lift up to twenty pounds occasionally and frequently lift and carry ten pounds, who had to stand, walk or sit for up to six hours a day, the witness testified that she could no longer perform her past work but could engage in other employ which was plentiful in the national economy (R.40-41). Even if the individual could only stand or walk for about two hours a day, but could sit for about six hours, the witness testified that there were still jobs she could perform (R.41-42). However, the witness also testified that if the individual had to elevate her legs she could not be employed (R.42).

The issue before the Court is whether or not the decision of the Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence.

The term "disability" is defined in 42 U.S.C. Section 423(d) (1)(A) as:

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....

For purposes of the foregoing, the requirements for a disability determination are provided in 42 U.S.C. Section 423(d)(2)(A):

An individual shall be determined to be under a disability only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work. For purposes of the preceding sentence... "work which exists in the national economy" means work which exists in significant numbers either in the region where such individual lives or in several regions of the country.

A "physical or mental impairment" is "an impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques." 42 U.S.C. Section 423(d)(3). These provisions are also applied for purposes of establishing a period of disability. 42 U.S.C. Section 416(i)(2)(A).

It is provided in 42 U.S.C. Section 1382c(a)(3) that:

(A)... an individual shall be considered to be disabled for purposes of this subchapter if he is unable 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 twelve months.
(B) For purposes of subparagraph (A), an individual shall be determined to be under a disability only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work. For purposes of the preceding sentence... "work which exists ...

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