United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT
DONETTA W. AMBROSE, U.S. 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, Plaintiff's Motion [ECF No.
9] is granted and Defendant's Motion [ECF No. 11] is
has brought this action for review of the final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying her application for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Social Security Act (the “Act”).
Plaintiff applied for SSI on or about August 7, 2013. [ECF
No. 7-5, Ex. 1D]. In her application, she alleged that she
was disabled due to colon issues, female problems, migraines,
and heart issues, and that she had been unable to work since
January 25, 2013. [ECF No. 7-6, Ex. 2E]. Administrative Law
Stanley held a hearing on June 23, 2015, at which Plaintiff
was represented by counsel. [ECF No. 7-2, at 26-51].
Plaintiff appeared at the hearing and testified on her own
behalf, with the aid of an interpreter. Id. A
vocational expert also was present at the hearing and
testified. Id. at 45-51. In a decision dated July
31, 2015, the ALJ found that jobs existed in significant
numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform
and, therefore, that Plaintiff was not disabled under the
Act. Id. at 10-21. On, July 27, 2016, the Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.
Id. at 1-3. Having exhausted all of her
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 my 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)). Determining whether substantial
evidence exists is “not merely a quantitative
exercise.” Gilliland v. Heckler, 786 F.2d 178,
183 (3d Cir. 1986) (citing Kent v. Schweiker, 710
F.2d 110, 114 (3d Cir. 1983)). “A single piece of
evidence will not satisfy the substantiality test if the
secretary ignores, or fails to resolve, a conflict created by
countervailing evidence. Nor is evidence substantial if it is
overwhelmed by other evidence - particularly certain types of
evidence (e.g., that offered by treating physicians).”
Id. 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, the
district court must review the record as a whole.
See 5 U.S.C. § 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. § 1382(a)(3)(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. § 416.920. 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, app. 1; (4) if the impairment
does not satisfy one of the impairment listings, whether the
claimant's impairments prevent her from performing her
past relevant work; and (5) if the claimant is incapable of
performing her past relevant work, whether she can perform
any other work which exists in the national economy, in light
of her age, education, work experience and residual
functional capacity. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. The claimant
carries the initial burden of demonstrating by medical
evidence that she 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).