United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
WILLIAM O. RHYDER, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.
above-captioned action is one seeking review of a decision of
the Acting Commissioner of Social Security
("Commissioner"), denying Plaintiff William O.
Rhyder's application for Social Security Disability
Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental
Security Income ("SSI") under Title II and Title
XVI. For the reasons set forth below, we will vacate the
decision of the Commissioner and remand the case to the
Commissioner for further proceedings.
applied protectively for DIB and SSI on December 1, 2009,
alleging disability beginning June 23, 2009. (Tr. 190-96,
197-201). Rhyder later amended the alleged onset
date to March 2, 2012. (Tr. 232). His claim was initially
denied on June 2, 2010. (Tr. 118).
requested a hearing before the Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ") Office of Disability and Adjudication and
Review of the Social Security Administration, and one was
held on June 8, 2011. (Tr, 158-59, 59-93). At the hearing,
Rhyder was represented by counsel, and a Vocational Expert
testified. (Tr. 59-93). On August 24, 2011, the ALJ issued a
decision denying Rhyder's application. (Tr. 127-43).
Rhyder filed a request for review with the Appeals Council,
which was granted. (Tr. 144-49). A second hearing was
conducted on January 27, 2014 before the same ALJ. (Tr.
94-117). Again, Rhyder was represented by counsel and a
Vocational Expert testified. (Id.). On March 22,
2014, the ALJ again issued a decision finding Rhyder not
disabled. (Tr. 20-40). The Appeals Council subsequently
denied Rhyder's request for review. (Tr. 1-6). Thus, the
ALJ's decision stood as the final decision of the
filed a complaint in this Court on May 16, 2016. (Doc. 1).
The Commissioner filed an answer on July 14, 2016. (Doc. 4).
After supporting and opposing briefs were submitted (Docs. 8,
11, 12), the appeal became ripe for disposition.
was born in March of 1957 (Tr. 118), and has a 10th grade
education. (Tr.l 18). In the past, Rhyder worked as a
warehouse worker, forklift operator, and auto body
technician. (Tr. 126, 138, 269). Rhyder has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the amended alleged onset
date of disability, March 2, 2012. (Tr. 25, 232).
has the following severe impairments: bipolar disorder,
anxiety disorder, lumbar degenerative disc
disease/degenerative joint disease, and a history of right
rotator cuff tear/impingement. (Tr. 26).
Standard of Review
considering a social security appeal, the Court has plenary
review of all legal issues decided by the Commissioner. See
Poulos v, Comm'r of Soc, Sec. 474 F.3d 88, 91
(3d Cir.2007); Johnson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.
529 F.3d 198, 200 (3d Cir. 2008). However, our review of the
Commissioner's findings of fact pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) is to determine whether those findings are
supported by "substantial evidence." Id.
The factual findings of the Commissioner, "if supported
by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive . . .." 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). "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." Johnson. 529
F.3d at 200 (3d Cir. 2008) (quoting Hartranft v.
Apfel. 181 F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir. 1999)) (internal
quotations and citations omitted). Substantial evidence has
been described as more than a mere scintilla of evidence but
less than a preponderance. Brown v. Bowen, 845 F.2d
1211, 1213 (3d Cir. 1988). "It means such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion." Plummer v. Apfel. 186
F.3d 422, 427 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing Ventura v.
Shalala. 55 F.3d 900, 901 (3d Cir. 1995)) (quoting
Richardson v. Perales. 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971) (internal citations omitted)). The Third Circuit Court
of Appeals has stated,
[O]ur decisions make clear that determination of the
existence vel non of substantial evidence is not
merely a quantitative exercise. A single piece of evidence
will not satisfy the substantiality test if the
[Commissioner] ignores, or fails to resolve, a conflict
created by countervailing evidence. Nor is evidence
substantial if it is overwhelmed by other evidence -
particularly certain types of evidence (e.g., that offered by
treating physicians) - or if it really constitutes not
evidence but mere conclusion.
Morales v. Apfel. 225 F.3d 310. 317 (3d Cir. 2000)
(citing Kent v. Schweiker. 710F.2d 110, 114 (3d Cir.
1983); Gilliland v. Heckler. 786 F.2d 178, 183 (3d
Cir. 1986)). Therefore, a court reviewing the decision of the
Commissioner must scrutinize the record as a whole.
Id. (citing Smith v. Califano. 637 F.2d
968, 970 (3d Cir. 1981)).
Sequential Evaluation Process
plaintiff must establish that there is some "medically
determinable basis for an impairment that prevents him from
engaging in any substantial gainful activity for a statutory
twelve-month period." Fargnoli v. Massanari.
247 F.3d 34, 38-39 (3d Cir. 2001) (quoting Plummer.
186 F.3d at 427) (internal quotations omitted). "A
claimant is considered unable to engage in any substantial
gainful activity '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 .. . .'" Fargnoli. 247 F.3d at 39
(quoting 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A)). The ...