United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
AMBROSE, 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, I am denying Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 9) and granting
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 11).
brought this action for review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner")
denying his application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) pursuant to the Social Security Act
(“Act"). Plaintiff filed his application alleging
he had been disabled since May 31, 2013. (ECF No. 7-5, p.
2). Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), Regina
Carpenter, held a hearing on April 26, 2016. (ECF No. 7-2,
pp. 27-73). On June 14, 2016, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
was disabled since July 1, 2015. (ECF No. 7-2, pp. 13-22).
exhausting all administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed the
instant action with this court. The parties have filed
Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF Nos. 9 and 11). 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 Amore 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. §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 U.S.C.
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. §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).
Weighing of the Opinion Dr. Ahmad, Plaintiff's
first argument is basically that the ALJ erred by failing to
give his treating physician, Dr. Ahmad, controlling weight in
determining his onset date. (ECF No. 10, pp. 4-8). The amount
of weight accorded to medical opinions is well-established.
Generally, the ALJ will give more weight to the opinion of a
source who has examined the claimant than to a non-examining
source. 20 C.F.R. § 416.927(c)(1). In addition, the ALJ
generally will give more weight to opinions from a treating
physician, “since these sources are likely to be the
medical professionals most able to provide a detailed,
longitudinal picture of [a claimant's] medical
impairment(s) and may bring a unique perspective to the
medical evidence that cannot be obtained from the objective
medical findings alone or from reports of individual
examinations, such as consultative examinations or brief
hospitalizations.” Id. § 416.927(c)(2).
If the ALJ finds that “a treating source's opinion
on the issue(s) of the nature and severity of [a
claimant's] impairment(s) is well-supported by medically
acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and
is not inconsistent with the other substantial evidence [of]
record, ” he must give that opinion controlling weight.
Id. Also, “the more consistent an opinion is
with the record as a whole, the more weight [the ALJ
generally] will give to that opinion.” Id.
event of conflicting medical evidence, the Court of Appeals