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. 11 and 13). Both parties have filed Briefs in Support of
their Motions. (ECF Nos. 12 and 14). 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. 11) and granting
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 13).
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 disability beginning on June
22, 2007. (ECF No. 7-5, pp. 2, 9). Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), Daniel F. Cusick, held a hearing on
February 28, 2014 (ECF No. 7-2, pp. 36-88). On April 15,
2014, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled under the
Act. (ECF No. 7-2, pp. 19-31).
exhausting all administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed the
instant action with this court. The parties have filed
Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF Nos. 11 and 13). 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
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).
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). 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). If a claimant is found to have a severe
impairment, then the ALJ proceeds to the next step. 20 C.F.R.
case, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred in failing to find
additional severe impairments. (ECF No. 12, pp. 10-13).
Although the ALJ did not find certain impairments to be
severe, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the following severe
impairments: seizure/pseudo seizure disorder, obesity, and
bipolar disorder. (ECF No. 7-2, pp. 22-23). So, the ALJ