United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
JACOB F. COLOMBIN, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT
Donetta W. Ambrose United States Senior District Judge
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 granting Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 11) and denying
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 9).
brought this action for review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security
("Commissioner'') denying his applications for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
insurance benefits under the Social Security Act
("Act''). Plaintiff filed his applications
alleging he had been disabled since October 30, 2010. (ECF
No. 7-7 pp. 4, 14) Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), Charles Pankow, held a hearing on June
6, 2014, at which Plaintiff was represented by counsel. (ECF
No. 7-2, pp. 26-49). On August 26, 2014, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act.
(ECF No. 7-2, pp. 12-25).
exhausting all of his administrative remedies thereafter,
Plaintiff filed this action.
parties have filed Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF
No. 9 and 11). The issues are now ripe for review.
Standard of Review
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.
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.
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), 416.920(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., app. 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; 416.920. 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.
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).
first argument is that the ALJ erred in failing to properly
consider whether Plaintiff's intellectual deficits met or
equaled the requirements of Listing 12.05C. (ECF No. 10, pp.
10-14). At step two of the analysis, an ALJ must determine
whether the claimant has a medically determinable impairment
that is severe or a combination of impairments that is
severe. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a); 416.920(a). An
impairment is not severe if it does not significantly limit
the physical or mental ability to do basic work activities.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 404.1521(a); ...