United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
I. QUIÑONES ALEJANDRO, J. 
October 18, 2016, Plaintiff Maryanne Margaret Hansell
(“Plaintiff”) filed a counseled complaint
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review
of the final decision of Carolyn W. Colvin, then the Acting
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Defendant”), which denied her applications for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and
supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Titles
II and XVI of the Social Security Act (“the
Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 405 et seq., and
1381 et seq., respectively. [ECF 1]. Plaintiff claims
that she is disabled primarily due to symptoms and functional
limitations resulting from her cervical myelopathy, cervical
degenerative disc disease, and obesity.
with 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 72.1, this
matter was randomly referred to United States Magistrate
Judge Jacob P. Hart (the “Magistrate Judge”) for
a Report and Recommendation (“R&R”).
[ECF 9]. On April 4, 2017, the Magistrate Judge issued a
thorough and well-reasoned R&R, recommending that
Plaintiff's request for review be denied. [ECF 10].
Plaintiff timely filed objections to the R&R, essentially
arguing that the Magistrate Judge erred in upholding the
Administrative Law Judge Jack Penca's (the
“ALJ”) decision to give no weight to the opinions
of Dr. Robert Centrone, M.D., Plaintiff's treating
physician, or Dr. John DeCarli, D.O., the state agency's
examining consultant, and “elevated” the opinion
of the state agency non-examining reviewer. [ECF 11].
Defendant filed a response to the objections. [ECF 15].
comprehensive de novo review of the administrative
record, the R&R, Plaintiff's objections, and
Defendant's response, for the reasons set forth herein,
this Court overrules Plaintiff's objections, approves and
adopts the R&R, and denies Plaintiff's request for
following is a succinct summary of the facts and the
procedural history of this case as gleaned from the
administrative record (“R.”), [ECF 6], the
R&R, and Plaintiff's objections to the R&R;
On April 9 and April 26, 2012, Plaintiff filed an application
for DIB and SSI, respectively, and indicated that she was
born in 1959, had completed three years of college, had
worked in managerial positions, and had alleged an onset date
of disability of March 1, 2012, caused by cervical myopathy,
neck and back injuries, arthritis, and patent ductus. (R. at
11, 283, 286). Plaintiff's applications were denied.
(Id. at 11). Thereafter, Plaintiff filed a request
for an administrative hearing. (Id. at 11).
On April 6, 2015, Plaintiff, represented by counsel, appeared
at a hearing before the ALJ. In the written decision dated
April 23, 2015, the ALJ concluded that although Plaintiff has
a severe impairment of cervical myopathy and degenerative
disc disease, she had the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), with certain
limitations, and was capable of performing her past relevant
work as a fast food service manager and retail manager.
(Id. at 13-17). As a result, the ALJ concluded that
Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act, and denied
Plaintiff's DIB and SSI applications. (Id. at
Plaintiff appealed the denial of benefits to the Appeals
Council, which affirmed the ALJ's decision. (Id.
at 1-3), making it the final decision of the Commissioner.
This request for judicial review followed.
qualify for DIB and/or SSI benefits, a claimant must prove a
disability. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(a)(1)(E);
1382(a)(1). To be disabled, a claimant must be unable
“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).
determine whether a claimant is disabled, an ALJ must employ
a five-step sequential evaluation process outlined in the
Social Security Regulations (the “Regulations”).
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(1),
416.920(a). A claimant bears the burden of proving
steps one through four by substantial evidence. See
Plummer, 186 F.3d at 428. At step five, the burden
shifts to the Commissioner. Id. at 428. Ultimately,
it is the claimant's burden to establish that he or she
is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §§
review of an administrative decision is limited in scope. In
reviewing a final determination that a person is not disabled
and, therefore, not entitled to Social Security benefits, a
court may not independently weigh the evidence or substitute
its own conclusions for those reached by the ALJ.
Chandler v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 667 F.3d 356,
359 (3d Cir. 2011); Burns v. Barnhart, 312 F.3d 113,
118 (3d Cir. 2002). Instead, the court must review the
factual findings of the ALJ to determine whether the findings
are supported by substantial evidence. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Rutherford v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546,
552 (3d Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence constitutes that
which a “reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Rutherford, 399 F.3d at
552. “It is ‘more than a mere scintilla but may
be somewhat less than a preponderance of the
evidence.'” Id. (quoting Ginsburg v.
Richardson, 436 F.2d 1146, ...