United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
C. Mitchell United States Magistrate Judge
before the Court for disposition are cross motions for
summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the
plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 11) will
be denied; the defendant's motion for summary judgment
(ECF No.15) will be granted, and the decision of the
Commissioner will be affirmed.
March 7, 2016, Melissa Smith, 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 a period of disability or for disability insurance
benefits under Sections 216(i) and 223 of the Social Security
Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§416(i) and 423.
18, 2013, the plaintiff filed an application for disability
benefits alleging that she had been disabled since February
2, 2013 (R. 158-159), and benefits were denied on October 16,
2013 (R. 101-105). On November 15, 2013, the plaintiff
requested a hearing (R. 106-107) and pursuant to that request
a hearing was held on May 28, 2014 (R. 32-80). In a decision
dated July 14, 2015, benefits were denied (R. 9-24), and on
August 29, 2014, reconsideration was requested (R. 7). Upon
reconsideration and in a decision dated December 30, 2015,
the Appeals Council affirmed the prior determination (R.
1-3). On March 7, 2016, the instant complaint was filed.
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 burden of demonstrating that he was disabled
within the meaning of the Social Security Act.
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).
hearing held on May 28, 2014 (R.32-80), the plaintiff
appeared with counsel (R. 34) and testified that she was born
on November 30, 1975 (R.40); that she had been pursuing her
Associate's degree (R.41); that she worked as a certified
nurse's aide performing medic transport (R.42); that she
stopped working on February 2, 2013 pursuant to her
doctor's advice (R.44) and that she is receiving food
stamps and public assistance (R.43).
plaintiff also testified that she suffers from lower back
pain, migraines, reflux disease, chest pain, vertigo,
depression and anxiety and panic disorders (R.46); that her
pain is extreme (R.47-48); that she suffers from daily
headaches and lacks energy (R.49, 58) and that she can walk
for about ten feet, stand for five minutes, sit for fifteen
to twenty minutes and lift a gallon of milk (R.61-62).
hearing a vocational expert was called upon to testify
(R.70-78). She classified the plaintiff's prior work as
light to heavy and unskilled to skilled in nature (R.72).
When asked to assume an individual of the plaintiff's
age, education and vocational background who could lift up to
twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently and who
can stand, walk or sit for six hours a day she responded that
such an individual would only be able to perform limited
unskilled entry level jobs (R. 74-75).
witness was next asked to assume an individual of the
plaintiff's age, education and vocational background who
could only lift five pounds occasionally, stand or walk for
about an hour and sit for three hours and testified that such
an individual could not perform the plaintiff's past work
issue before the Court for immediate resolution is a
determination of whether or not there is substantial evidence
to support the findings of the Commissioner that the
plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act.
term "disability" is defined in 42 U.S.C. Section
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....
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.
"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).
these statutory provisions have been regarded as "very
harsh, " nevertheless, they must be followed by the
courts. NLRB v. Staiman Brothers, 466 F.2d 564 (3d
Cir. 1972); Choratch v. Finch, 438 F.2d 342 (3d Cir.
1971); Woods v. Finch, 428 F.2d 469 (3d Cir. 1970).
Thus, it must be determined whether or not there is
substantial evidence in the record to support the conclusion