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 13). Both parties have filed briefs in support of
their motions. (ECF Nos. 10 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. 9) 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 (ACommissioner@) denying her
applications for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”) pursuant to the Social Security Act
(AAct@). Plaintiff filed her applications alleging she has
been disabled since March 23, 2012. (ECF No. 5-8, pp. 4, 11).
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), Joanna
Papazekos, held hearings on June 26, 2014. (ECF No. 5-3). On
August 5, 2014, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled
under the Act. (ECF No. 5-2, pp. 18-34).
exhausting all administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed the
instant action with this court. The parties have filed
Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 9 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).
Mischaracterization of Evidence
submits that the ALJ erred by mischaracterizing evidence
related to Plaintiff's chest pain. (ECF No. 10, pp.
19-22). Plaintiff suggests that it was inappropriate of the
ALJ to suggest that Plaintiff's cardiac testing results
were “unremarkable.” Id. at p. 20. To
that end, Plaintiff submits that the ALJ mischaracterized the
evidence when she concluded that Plaintiff's “chest
pain was not attributed to a cardiac condition.”
Id. at p. 21. As a result, Plaintiff argues that
reversal/remand is warranted. Id. at p. 22. After
careful review of the evidence, I disagree.
to Plaintiff's assertion otherwise, simply because the
ALJ states that the records and tests were unremarkable does
not mean that the ALJ did not consider them or summarize
them. In this case, the ALJ discussed in detail and at length
Plaintiff's recurrent chest pain. (ECF No. 5-2, pp.
21-22, 26-28). I find her summarization of the medical
records associated with Plaintiff's chest pain to be fair
and appropriate. Id. At no point does the ALJ
misstate the records. Id. She goes ...