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. 17 and 19). Both parties have filed Briefs in Support of
their Motions. (ECF Nos. 17 and 19). 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. 17) and granting
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 19).
has brought this action for review of the final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security
(''Commissioner'') denying his application
for supplemental security income (“SSI”) pursuant
to the Social Security Act (''Act'').
Plaintiff filed his applications alleging he had been
disabled since January 2, 1991. (ECF No. 9-6, p. 2).
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), Michael F.
Colligan, held a hearing on January 5, 2016. (ECF No. 9-17,
pp. 25-48). On March 17, 2016, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
was not disabled under the Act. (ECF No. 9-17, pp. 5-17).
exhausting all administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed the
instant action with this court. The parties have filed
Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 17 and 19). The
case is 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).
Residual Functional Capacity
only contention is that the ALJ erred in failing to
incorporate his need to use a cane in the RFC thereby
resulting in a finding not supported by substantial evidence.
(ECF No. 18, pp. 19-22). To that end, Plaintiff asserts that
the ALJ gave great weight to the opinion of Dr. Malik but
fails to explain why he did not account for Dr. Malik's
opinion that it was medically necessary to use a cane to
ambulate. (ECF No. 18, p. 20). As a result, Plaintiff submits
that remand is necessary.
must provide sufficient explanation of his or her final
determination to provide a reviewing court with the benefit
of the factual basis underlying the ultimate disability
finding. Cotter v. Harris, 642 F.2d 700, 705 (3d
Cir. 1981). In other words, the ALJ must provide sufficient
discussion to allow the court to determine whether any
rejection of potentially pertinent, ...