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Snyder v. Berryhill

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

September 18, 2017

JANET DORIS SNYDER, Plaintiff
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security[1]Defendant

          SAPORITO, M.J.

          MEMORANDUM

          MALACHY E. MANNION UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Pending before the court is the report and recommendation of Judge Saporito, (Doc. 16), recommending that plaintiff's appeal from the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security be denied, and that the decision of the Commissioner be affirmed. Judge Saporito reviewed the record in this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g) to determine whether there is substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision denying the plaintiff's claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under the Social Security Act, (“Act”). 42 U.S.C. §§401-433, 1381-1383f. The plaintiff, Janet Doris Snyder, has filed objections and a brief in support.[2] (Doc. 17). The Commissioner responded to plaintiff's objections. (Doc. 18). For the following reasons, the report and recommendation is ADOPTED and plaintiff's appeal of the decision of the Commissioner will be DENIED.

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         When objections are timely filed to the report and recommendation of a magistrate judge, the district court must review de novo those portions of the report to which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1); Brown v. Astrue, 649 F.3d 193, 195 (3d Cir. 2011). Although the standard is de novo, the extent of review is committed to the sound discretion of the district judge, and the court may rely on the recommendations of the magistrate judge to the extent it deems proper. Rieder v. Apfel, 115 F.Supp.2d 496, 499 (M.D.Pa. 2000) (citing United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 676 (1980)).

         For those sections of the report and recommendation to which no objection is made, the court should, as a matter of good practice, “satisfy itself that there is no clear error on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b), advisory committee notes; see also Univac Dental Co. v. Dentsply Intern., Inc., 702 F.Supp.2d 465, 469 (M.D.Pa. 2010) (citing Henderson v. Carlson, 812 F.2d 874, 878 (3d Cir. 1987) (explaining judges should give some review to every report and recommendation)). Nevertheless, whether timely objections are made or not, the district court may accept, not accept, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1); Local Rule 72.31.

         When reviewing the denial of disability benefits, the court must determine whether the denial is supported by substantial evidence. Brown v. Bowen, 845 F.2d 1211, 1213 (3d Cir. 1988); Johnson v. Commissioner of Social Sec., 529 F.3d 198, 200 (3d Cir. 2008). Substantial evidence “does not mean a large or considerable amount of evidence, but rather such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552 (1988); Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 360. (3d Cir. 1999), Johnson, 529 F.3d at 200. It is less than a preponderance of the evidence but more than a mere scintilla. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). Furthermore, in determining if the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence the court may not parse the record but rather must scrutinize the record as a whole. Smith v. Califano, 637 F.2d 968, 970 (3d Cir. 1981).

         To receive disability benefits, the plaintiff must demonstrate an “inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any 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 not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §432(d)(1)(A). Furthermore,

[a]n individual shall be determined to be under a disability only if [her] physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that [she] is not only unable to do [her] previous work but cannot, considering [her] age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which [she] lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for [her], or whether [she] would be hired if [she] applied for work. For purposes of the preceding sentence (with respect to any individual), ‘work which exists in the national economy' means work which exists in significant numbers either in the region where such individual lives or in several regions of the country.

42 U.S.C. §423(d)(2)(A).

         II. RELEVANT MEDICAL EVIDENCE

         Judge Saporito's report and recommendation (“R&R”), (Doc. 16, pp. 2-8), as well as the initial briefs of the parties, (Doc. 13, Doc. 14), contain a thorough review of the plaintiff's medical history. The plaintiff did not file any objections to Judge Saporito's factual determinations regarding her medical history, so they will be adopted. See Butterfield v. Astrue, 2010 WL 4027768, *3 (E.D.Pa. Oct. 14, 2010) (“To obtain de novo determination of a magistrate [judge's] findings by a district court, 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1) requires both timely and specific objections to the report.”) (quoting Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6 (3d Cir.1984)). The court will restrict its discussion below to the relevant medical background as it pertains to the plaintiff's objections. Also, since the five-step legal framework for addressing a disability claim was properly stated in the R&R, (Doc. 16 at 11-12), and the findings of the ALJ at each step is in the record, (Doc. 10-2, at 21-29), the court incorporates by reference these portions of the R&R and the ALJ's decision.

         III. DISCUSSION

         The plaintiff raises two objections to the R&R claiming that Judge Saporito erred in his report with respect to his following findings about the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”): (1) the judge erred in finding that the ALJ's error at step two was harmless and, erred by “supplying his own reasoning to support the ALJ's decision rather than relying upon the ALJ's decision itself”; and (2) the judge erred in finding that the ALJ properly evaluated the opinions of Dr. Vegari and Dr. Shipkin. Specifically, plaintiff claims that Judge Saporito erred regarding the stated doctors' opinions by: a) “failing to analyze or address [her] argument regarding Dr. Vegari's opinion that [she] is limited to lifting five pounds”; b. “finding that Dr. Vegari's opinion regarding [her] concentration limitations was accounted for by limiting [her] to ‘simple, routine, ...


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