United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
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 granted; the defendant's motion (ECF No.13) will be denied, and the decision of the Commissioner will be reversed.
On August 13, 2014, Richele Maldonado by her counsel, filed a complaint pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §405(g) for review of the Commissioner's final determination disallowing her claim for Supplemental Security Income benefits under Sections 1614 and 1631 of the Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §1381 cf.
An original application for Supplemental Security Income Benefits was filed on June 1, 2009 (R.208-214) and denied on October 21, 2009 (R.96-106). The instant application for Supplemental Security Income Benefits was filed on October 31, 2011 (R.215-223). On February 7, 2012, the plaintiff requested a hearing (R.107) and pursuant to that request a hearing was held on January 24, 2013 (R.54-77). In a decision filed on March 12, 2013, an Administrative Law Judge denied benefits (R.34-47), and on April 4, 2013, the plaintiff requested reconsideration of that determination (R.9). On June 13, 2014, the Appeals Council affirmed the prior determination (R.1-4). The instant complaint was filed on August 13, 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. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389 (1971); Adorno v. Shalala, 40 F.3d 43 (3d Cir. 1994).
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).
The purpose of the Supplemental Security Income Program is to provide additional income to persons of limited resources who are aged, blind or disabled persons. 42 U.S.C. §1381; Chalmers v. Shalala, 23 F.3d 752 (3d Cir. 1994). To be eligible for such benefits, an individual's income must not exceed a certain established maximum and he/she must fulfill certain eligibility requirements.
As set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 416.905(a) disability is defined as:
the inability to do 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.
In addition, a person will be considered disabled if he/she is
(a)... permanently and totally disabled as defined under a State plan approved under title XIV or XVI of the Social Security Act, as in effect for October 1972; (b)... received aid under the State plan... for the month of December 1973 and for at least one month prior to July 1973; and (c)... continue[s] to be disabled as defined under the State plan.
20 C.F.R. § 416.907.
A physical or mental impairment is defined in 20 C.F.R. §416.908 as an:
impairment [which] result[s] from anatomical, physiological, or psychological abnormalities which [are demonstrated] by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques.
For purposes of determining whether or not the plaintiff met the eligibility requirements, certain evidence was considered by the Commissioner.
At the hearing held on January 24, 2013 (R.54-77), the plaintiff appeared with counsel (R.56) and testified that she was born on November 22, 1972 (R.59); that she graduated from high school and earned an associate's degree in business (R.59); that she has one child (R.60) and that she is receiving state medical support and food stamps (R.60).
The plaintiff also testified that she worked as a bank teller and waitress (R.60) and that she stopped working in 2011 due ...