United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
JENNIFER M. TURUCK, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
Donetta W. Ambrose United States Senior District Judge
before the court are Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF
Nos. 10 and 12). Both parties have filed Briefs in Support of
their Motions. (ECF Nos. 11 and 13). 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. 10) and granting
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 12).
brought this action for review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”)
denying her applications for supplemental security income
(“SSI”) and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) pursuant to the Social Security Act
(“Act”). Plaintiff filed her applications
alleging she had been disabled since December 8, 2012. (ECF
No. 8-7, pp. 2, 4). Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), William J. Bezego, held a hearing on
April 30, 2015. (ECF No. 8-3). On June 19, 2015, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. (ECF No.
8-2, pp. 27-37).
exhausting all administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed the
instant action with this court. The parties have filed
Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF Nos. 10 and 12). 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 “more 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
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).
submits that the ALJ erred by failing to properly assess the
medical evidence of record. (ECF No. 11, pp. 4-17). In
support of the same, Plaintiff begins by arguing that there
is evidence of record to support her claim for disability.
(ECF No. 11, pp. 4-13). To be clear, the standard is not
whether there is evidence to establish Plaintiff's
position but, rather, is whether there is substantial
evidence to support the ALJ's finding. Allen v.
Bowen, 881 F.2d 37, 39 (3d Cir. 1989). Thus, this
support for Plaintiff's argument is misplaced.
next suggests that the ALJ erred in failing to adequately
explain his reason for discounting the opinion of Terri
Sharo, PMHNP, regarding Plaintiff's affective and anxiety
disorders. (ECF No. 11, pp. 13-14; No. 8-28, pp. 29-32). A
nurse practitioner is not “an acceptable medical
source” in assessing a claimant's disability but,
rather, is considered an “other source.” SSR
06-03p. Therefore, a nurse practitioner's opinions cannot
establish the existence of a medically determinable
impairment. SSR 06-03p; Chandler v. Comm'er of
S.S.,677 F.3d 356, 361-362 (3d Cir. 2011); see,
Hartranft v. Apfel,181 F.3d 358, 361 (3d Cir. 1999);
see also, SSR 06-03p; 20 C.F. R. §416.913(a) and
§404.1513(a), (e). Social Security Ruling 06-03p
provides, however, that an ALJ will consider evidence from
such “other sources” in determining whether a
disability exists as they may provide insight into the
severity of the impairment and the ability of the individual
to function. As such, an ALJ should weigh this evidence with
the rest of the evidence using the same factors, including:
how long the source has known and how frequently the source
has seen the individual; how consistent the ...