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. 10 and 12). Both parties have filed Briefs in Support of
their Motions. (ECF Nos. 11 and 13). 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. 10) and granting
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 12).
brought this action for review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner")
denying her applications for supplemental security income
(“SSI”) and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) pursuant to the Social Security Act
(“Act"). Plaintiff filed her applications alleging
she had been disabled since August 15, 2011. (ECF No. 8-5,
pp. 2, 4). Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”),
Leslie Perry-Dowdell, held a hearing on June 3, 2014. (ECF
No. 8-2, pp. 37-62). On September 12, 2014, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. (ECF No. 8-2,
exhausting all administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed the
instant action with this court. The parties have filed
Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF Nos. 10 and 12). 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. Â§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. Â§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. 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
argues that ALJ improperly determined her RFC. (ECF No. 11,
pp. 5-6). Specifically, Plaintiff suggests that because the
ALJ found she had “severe” irritable bowel
syndrome status post cholecystectomy, the ALJ was required to
make an accommodation for that impairment in her RFC.
Id. I disagree. “[S]uch a presumption would
conflict with the regulatory scheme for determining whether a
claimant is disabled, under which the determination of
whether a claimant is severely impaired precedes a separate
determination of whether the claimant, despite his severe
impairment, retains the [residual functional capacity] to
perform substantial gainful activity.” Jones v.
Sullivan, 954 F.2d 125, 129 (3d Cir. 1991). Thus, just
because an impairment is found to be severe does not mean
necessarily that it erodes a plaintiff's RFC.
Franklin v. Astrue, No. 10-CV-02532-PAB, Civ No.
10-cv-2532, 2012 WL 1059995, at *3 (D. Colo. Mar. 28, 2012)
(“Simply because plaintiff established a ‘severe
impairment' which only ‘requires a de minimis
showing of impairment, ' does not necessarily require
that the ALJ conclude that the impairment materially erodes
plaintiff's RFC.”). In this case, the ALJ discussed
and thoroughly considered Plaintiff's irritable bowel
syndrome status post cholecystectomy in her discussion of the
RFC. (ECF No. 8-2, pp. 21-29). In fact, the RFC formulated by
the ALJ limited Plaintiff to sedentary work which necessarily
limits one's ability to bend or stoop. S.S.R. 83-10
(defining sedentary work and exertional level requirements).
Thus, I find the ALJ properly reviewed the same and that the
RFC is based on substantial evidence. Therefore, remand on
this basis is not warranted.
Weighing of ...