United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
I. QUIÑONES ALEJANDRO, J.
13, 2016, Plaintiff Vidal Tenorio (“Plaintiff) filed a
counseled complaint pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g)
seeking judicial review of the final decision of Defendant
Carolyn W. Colvin, the then-Acting Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“Defendant”), which
denied his application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) presented under Title II of the Social
Security Act (“the Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§
1461 et seq [ECF 3]. Consistent with 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 72.1, this matter was randomly
referred to United States Magistrate Judge Thomas J. Rueter
(the “Magistrate Judge”) for a Report and
Recommendation (“R&R”). [ECF 11]. On
April 18, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued a thorough and
well-reasoned R&R, recommending that Plaintiffs request
for review be denied. [ECF 13]. Plaintiff timely filed
objections to the R&R in which he argued that he
Magistrate Judge erred in upholding the Administrative Law
Judge Barbara Artuso's (“ALJ”) decision that
Plaintiff was not disabled despite the fact that the ALJ did
not sufficiently explain Plaintiffs residual functional
capacity at step four and failed to properly assess
Plaintiffs credibility. [ECF 14]. Defendant filed a response.
comprehensive de novo review of Plaintiff s
objections, the R&R, Defendant's responses, and the
administrative record, for the reasons set forth herein, this
Court overrules Plaintiffs objections, approves and adopts
the R&R, and denies Plaintiffs request for review.
following is a succinct summary of the facts and the
procedural history of this case as gleaned from the
administrative record (“R.”), the R&R, and
Plaintiffs objections to the R&R; to wit:
On February 28, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB
and alleged an onset date of disability of October 27, 2012,
(R. at 163), caused by impairments to his back. (R. at 69).
After Plaintiffs application was denied, he filed a request
for an administrative hearing. (R. at 69, 78-79). On May 19,
2014, Plaintiff, proceeding pro se, appeared at an
administrative hearing where an interpreter was present.
(See R. at 53-59). The administrative law judge
continued the hearing to allow Plaintiff to obtain
On January 27, 2015, the parties reconvened for a hearing
before Administrative Law Judge Barbara Artuso (the
“ALJ”). (R. at 17-25). Plaintiff, represented by
counsel, appeared and testified through an interpreter.
(See id). The ALJ also considered the testimony of
the vocational expert (“VE”) Irene Montgomery,
id, and the medical evidence in the record,
including a report from Dr. Leon H. Venier (“Dr.
Venier”), a physician who performed a consultative
evaluation on Plaintiff on May 30, 2013. (See R. at
On July 1, 2015, the ALJ issued a written decision in which
she concluded that, although Plaintiff suffered degenerative
disc disease of the lumbar spine, degenerative facet changes,
left shoulder tendinitis, and obesity, he was not disabled
under the Act, and had the residual functional capacity to
perform light work, as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(b), with certain limitations. (See R. at
14-25). Plaintiff appealed the denial of benefits and the
ALJ's decision was affirmed by the Appeals Council on May
25, 2016, (see R. at 1-5), making the ALJ's
decision the final decision of the Commissioner. This request
for judicial review followed.
qualify for DIB benefits, a claimant must prove a disability;
i.e., that he has 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
twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A),
1382c(a)(3)(A). Under the Act, the claimant has the burden of
proving the existence of a disability and must furnish
medical evidence indicating the severity of the impairment.
Id. § 423(d)(5). A claimant satisfies this
burden by showing an inability to return to former work.
Rossi v. Califano, 602 F.2d 55, 57 (3d Cir. 1979). Once
this standard is met, the burden of proof shifts to the
Commissioner to show that given the claimant's age,
education, and work experience, the claimant has the ability
to perform specific jobs that exist in the national economy.
42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f).
determine whether a claimant is disabled, an ALJ must employ
a five-step sequential evaluation process (“the
five-step sequential analysis”) outlined in the Social
Security Regulations (the “Regulations”).
See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(1). The five-step
sequential analysis must be followed in order, and if the
claimant is determined to be, or not to be, disabled at a
particular step of the evaluation process, the evaluation
does not proceed to the next step. Id. §
404.1520(a)(4). The five-step sequential analysis requires
the ALJ to consider the following:
At step one, [the ALJ] must determine whether the claimant is
currently engaging in substantial gainful activity. If the
claimant is found to be engaged in substantial activity, the
disability claim will be denied; otherwise the evaluation
proceeds to step two.
At step two, the [the ALJ] must determine whether the
claimant has an impairment that is severe or a combination of
impairments that is severe. If the claimant fails to show
that the impairment or combination of impairments is
“severe, ” claimant is ineligible for ...