United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
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 denying Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 9) and granting
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 11).
brought this action for review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”)
denying his application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) pursuant to the Social Security Act
("Act”). Plaintiff filed his application alleging
he has been disabled since September 1, 2012. (ECF No. 5-6,
p. 2). Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), William
E. Kenworthy, held a hearing on February 3, 2014. (ECF No.
5-2, pp. 24-58). On October 20, 2014, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. (ECF No. 5-2, pp.
exhausting all administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed the
instant action with this court. The parties have filed
Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (Docket Nos. 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
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. Â§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). 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., appx. 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. 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).
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).
Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”) and Hypothetical
argues that the RFC is inconsistent with the hypothetical
questions presented to the Vocational Expert
(“VE”). (ECF No. 10, pp. 7-10). Specifically,
Plaintiff suggests that the ALJ found an RFC that limited
Plaintiff to jobs that would not require “good
binocular vision, ” but the ALJ failed to include this
limitation in the hypothetical question he presented to the
VE. Id., citing ECF No. 5-2, p. 16. As such,
Plaintiff reasons that the step five finding is unsupported
by substantial evidence. Id. Additionally, Plaintiff
argues that the term “good binocular vision” is
too vague as to determine what jobs could be performed with
such an RFC. Id. at p. 9. Finally, Plaintiff
suggests that this court cannot make a meaningful review
because the VE did not provide Dictionary of Occupational
Titles (“DOT”) codes for the jobs that the VE
testified Plaintiff could perform. Id. at pp. 9-11.
Thus, Plaintiff submits that remand is warranted.
Id. After a review of the evidence, I disagree.
regard to Plaintiff's first contention, an ALJ is
required to accept only that testimony from the vocational
expert which accurately reflects a Plaintiff's
impairments. See, Podedworny v. Harris, 745 F.2d 210
(3d Cir. 1984); Chrupcala v. Heckler, 829 F.2d 1269,
1276 (3d Cir. 1987). To that end, there is no requirement
that the language in the RFC exactly match the hypothetical
question posed to the VE. In this case, the ALJ asked the VE
to “assume an individual the claimant's age,
education, and work experience, who would be capable of
performing work at the light exertional level, ...,
because of monocular vision he should not be
required to perform any tasks that would involve depth
perception, and he should not be exposed to heights or
hazardous operations….” (ECF No. 5-2, p.
40)(emphasis added). This hypothetical, if anything, is more
limiting than a person that does not require “good
binocular vision.” Thus, I find that it fairly and
accurately includes an individual with an RFC that does ...