United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM RE: MOTION TO DISMISS
case, Plaintiff Kaylynn Smith ("Smith") seeks
judicial review of the denial of her application for
disability insurance benefits by the Commissioner of Social
Security ("Defendant"). Presently before the Court
are the competing briefs of the parties addressing the
question of whether Smith's request for review of
Defendant's decision should be granted. (See ECF
11, "PL's Brief; ECF 12, "Def's
Opp'n"). For the reasons discussed below, the
decision of Defendant is affirmed and Smith's request for
review is denied.
Factual and Procedural History
Smith's allegations as true, the factual background is as
follows. Smith, a fifty-three year old woman with a
twelfth-grade education, suffers from a variety of mental and
physical health ailments, including headaches, seizures,
social anxiety, arthritis, obesity, joint pain, and asthma.
(PL's Brief at 5-7). For sixteen years, Smith maintained
employment as a food service worker, but she ceased working
after suffering a grand mal seizure and concussion at work in
February 2005. (Id. at 3).
applied to the Social Security Administration for disability
benefits on December 19, 2006 for a period of disability
beginning February 10, 2005, but her application was denied
shortly thereafter on April 26, 2007. (ECF 1, Compl. ¶
5). On May 9, 2007, Smith submitted a request to have her
case heard before an Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ"), and a videoconference with an ALJ was held
on July 8, 2010 in Reading, Pennsylvania. (Id.
¶¶ 6-7). The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on
July 14, 2010, in which she found that Smith was not
"under a disability, " as defined in the Social
Security Act, and was therefore ineligible for the disability
benefits that she sought. (ECF 5, Administrative Record,
"Admin. Rec." 42). Smith's subsequent request,
that the Appeals Council of the Social Security
Administration review the hearing decision of the ALJ, was
denied. (Compl. ¶ 9).
filed the instant suit seeking review of the
Commissioner's final decision on July 5, 2012. The case
was suspended for three years, and a briefing schedule was
set by the Court in 2015. (ECF 8). Smith submitted a brief in
support of her request for review on June 26, 2017 (ECF 11),
and Defendant filed a Response requesting that the Court
affirm the decision of the ALJ on July 27, 2017. (ECF 12).
Determination of Disability
for disability benefits under the Social Security Act
requires a claimant to present "some medically
determinable basis for an impairment that prevents him from
engaging in any substantial gainful activity for a statutory
twelve-month period." Burnett v. Commissioner of
Social Sec. Admin., 220 F.3d 112, 118 (3d Cir. 2000)
(citing Plummer v. Apfel 186 F.3d 422, 427 (3d Cir.
1999)); see also 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)
(delineating the "inability to engage in any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment" as the statutory
definition of the term "disability").
to 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520, the Commissioner must follow a
five-step sequential process for evaluating whether a
claimant is entitled to disability benefits under the Social
Security Act. Id. At Step One, the Commissioner must
analyze the claimant's current work activity and, if the
claimant is currently engaging in substantial gainful
activity, the claim must be denied. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i).
Two, the Commissioner must analyze the severity of the
claimant's impairment or combination of impairments, and
if the impairments are not "severe" the claim must
be denied. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii).
Three, the Commissioner must determine whether the
impairments) of the claimant meets or equals the severity of
one of the impairments in the Listing of Impairments presumed
severe enough to preclude any gainful work, and if so, the
claimant is eligible for disability benefits. §
claim is not approved at Step Three, the Commissioner must
continue to Step Four, where she must consider whether the
claimant retains the residual functional capacity
("RFC") to meet the physical or mental demands of
past relevant work; if so, the claimant will not be
classified as disabled. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv).
at Step Five, the commissioner must assess the RFC, age,
education level, and work experience of the claimant to
ascertain whether an adjustment can be made to enable her to
perform other work. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v). Once a claimant
demonstrates she is unable to resume the past relevant work,
this step requires the Commissioner to show that the claimant
is "capable of ...