United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
TIMOTHY D. DOMBROWSKI,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY.
OPINION AND ORDER
Donetta W. Ambrose Senior Judge
at C.A. 14-139, Plaintiff filed an application for
child's insurance benefits, and for supplemental social
security income, alleging disability due to various
impairments, including Asperger's syndrome.
Plaintiff's application was denied initially, and upon
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). The Appeals Council denied his request
for review, and he appealed to this Court. By Order dated
April 9, 2015 (“April 9 Order”), this Court
remanded the matter to permit further analysis or explanation
of the weight afforded the opinions of several medical
sources. After holding a hearing on remand, the same ALJ
again denied Plaintiff's claim, and issued a decision
dated April 28, 2016. Before the Court are the parties'
cross-motions for summary judgment. For the following
reasons, Plaintiff's Motion will be denied, and
STANDARD OF REVIEW
review of the Commissioner's final decisions on
disability claims is provided by statute. 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) 6 and 1383(c)(3) 7. Section 405(g)
permits a district court to review the transcripts and
records upon which a determination of the Commissioner is
based, and the court will review the record as a whole. See 5
U.S.C. §706. When reviewing a decision, the district
court's role is limited to determining whether the record
contains substantial evidence to support an ALJ's
findings of fact. Burns v. Barnhart, 312 F.3d 113,
118 (3d Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is defined as
"such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate" to support a conclusion. Ventura
v. Shalala, 55 F.3d 900, 901 (3d Cir. 1995) (quoting
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct.
1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842 (1971)). If the ALJ's findings of
fact are supported by substantial evidence, they are
conclusive. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson, 402 U.S. at
here, a district court cannot conduct a de novo
review of the Commissioner's decision, or re-weigh the
evidence of record; the court can only judge the propriety of
the decision with reference to the grounds invoked by the
Commissioner when the decision was rendered. Palmer v.
Apfel, 995 F.Supp. 549, 552 (E.D. Pa. 1998); S.E.C.
v. Chenery Corp., 332 U.S. 194, 196 - 97, 67 S.Ct. 1575,
91 L.Ed. 1995 (1947). Otherwise stated, “I may not
weigh the evidence or substitute my own conclusion for that
of the ALJ. I must defer to the ALJ's evaluation of
evidence, assessment of the credibility of witnesses, and
reconciliation of conflicting expert opinions. If the
ALJ's findings of fact are supported by substantial
evidence, I am bound by those findings, even if I would have
decided the factual inquiry differently.” Brunson
v. Astrue, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55457 (E.D. Pa. Apr.
14, 2011) (citations omitted).
THE PARTIES' MOTIONS
contends that the ALJ erred in his analysis of Dr. Reedy,
Plaintiff's treating psychologist, and a consulting
examiner, Dr. Francis. In particular, Plaintiff argues that
the ALJ failed to discuss the factors identified in 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1527, and that the errors identified in my April 9
Opinion remain uncorrected.
the ALJ crafted a residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) that included the following nonexertional
limitations: Plaintiff can have no more than moderate
exposure to a more than moderate noise intensity level; can
understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions and
make simple work-related decisions, and can perform routine,
repetitive tasks at a consistent pace, but not at a
production rate pace involving tasks to be performed within a
strict time deadline; can sustain an ordinary routine without
special supervision and can tolerate no more than occasional
changes in a routine work setting; can tolerate occasional
interaction with coworkers and supervisors, but no
interaction with the public; and can have no reading or
writing of more than simple instructions or perform more than
weight to be afforded a treating physician's opinion
depends on the analysis of several factors, including the
length, nature and extent of the treatment relationship, the
supportability of the opinion, the consistency of the opinion
with the record evidence, and any specialization of the
physician. 20 C.F.R. § 416.927.
"[W]here . . . the opinion of a treating physician
conflicts with that of a non-treating, non- examining
physician, the ALJ may choose whom to credit" and may
reject the treating physician's assessment if such
rejection is based on contradictory medical evidence.
Similarly, … the opinion of a treating physician is to
be given controlling weight only when it is well-supported by
medical evidence and is consistent with other evidence in the
Becker v. Comm'r of Social Sec. Admin., 403
Fed.Appx. 679 (3d Cir. 2010) (citations omitted).
is not required to discuss each of the factors identified in
Section 404.1527, so long as there is sufficient evidence
that the ALJ considered those factors. Ortiz v.
Berryhill, No. 16-3591, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 63116, at
*23 n.10 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 28, 2017). “[T]he ALJ is not
required to ‘use particular language or adhere to a
particular format, ' …and instead is required to
provide enough explanation of his findings to permit
meaningful judicial review.” Walck v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., No. 15-00687, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 107297,
at *21 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 15, 2016) (citation omitted);
Laverde v. Colvin, No. 14-1242, 2015 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 125808, at *9 n.3 (W.D. Pa. Sep. 21, 2015). As well, of
course, a treating physician's opinion regarding
functional capacity is not binding on the ALJ; the ultimate
decision is reserved for the ALJ. Chandler v.
Commissioner of ...