United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
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 Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 9) and denying
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 applications for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”) pursuant to the Social Security Act
(“Act”). Plaintiff filed his applications for
benefits alleging he has been disabled since May 1, 2008.
(ECF No. 7-8, pp. 10, 34). Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) William E. Kenworthy held a hearing on
July 17, 2014. (ECF No. 7-4, pp. 23-45). On August 27, 2014,
the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff is not disabled.
(ECF No. 7-4, pp. 5-17). After exhausting all administrative
remedies, Plaintiff filed this action.
parties have filed Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF
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. §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).
Step 3 - Listing Section 3.00
argues that the ALJ erred in failing “to consider the
effects of Plaintiff's obesity on his respiratory system
under Listing Section 3.00-Sleep Related Breathing
Disorders.” (ECF No. 10, pp. 15). To that end,
Plaintiff submits that the “ALJ failed to determine
whether Plaintiff's sleep apnea, alone or in combination
with his obesity, meets or equals Listing 3.10.” (ECF
No. 10, pp. 13-14). As a result, the Plaintiff essentially
argues that there is insufficient discussion for this court
to make a meaningful review and the case should be remanded.
Id. After careful consideration, I agree.
three of the analysis set forth above, the ALJ must determine
if the claimant's impairment meets or is equal to one of
the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R., Pt. 404, Subpt. P, Appx.
1. Jesurum v. v. Secretary of Health and Human
Services, 48 F.3d 114, 117 (3d Cir. 1995). An applicant
is per se disabled if the impairment is equivalent
to a listed impairment and, thus, no further analysis is
necessary. Burnett v. Commissioner,220 F.3d 112,
119 (3d Cir. 2000). It is a Plaintiff's burden to show
that his impairment matches a listing or is equal in severity
to a listed impairment. Williams v. Sullivan, 970
F.2d 1178, 1186 (3d Cir.1992). It is not the burden of the
Plaintiff, however, to identify the applicable listings to
consider. Burnett v. Commissioner of Soc. Sec., 220
F.3d, 112, 120, n.2 (3d Cir. 2000). Rather, it is the burden
of the ALJ. Id. “Putting the responsibility on
the ALJ to identify the relevant listed impairment(s) is
consistent with the nature of Social Security disability
proceeding…. Such reasoning is further supported by
the fact ‘that a large portion of Social Security
[disability benefits] claimants either have no representation
at all or are represented by ...