United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
Donetta W. Ambrose United States Senior District Judge.
before the court are Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF
Nos. 8 and 11). Both parties have filed Briefs in Support of
their Motions. (ECF Nos. 9 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. 8) 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 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 December
15, 2012. (ECF No. 5-7, p. 2). Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), Alma S. de Leon, held a hearing on April
16, 2015. (ECF No. 5-2, pp. 8-64). On July 1, 2015, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff was disabled under the Act. (ECF No.
7-3, pp. 5-18).
exhausting all administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed the
instant action with this court. The parties have filed
Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF Nos. 8 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 “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).
only argument is that the ALJ erred by improperly considering
Plaintiff's non-exertional limitations such that the
ALJ's opinion is not supported by substantial evidence.
(ECF No. 9). Specifically, Plaintiff argues that during the
period of December 15, 2012 and May 5, 2014, he was in the
hospital and emergency rooms and had an invasive procedure
which totaled over 30 days. As a result, Plaintiff predicts
that he would miss, on average 2 days a month if he worked.
Id. Plaintiff continues that “such absenteeism
would prevent employment in the competitive workplace”
and the ALJ failed to consider the same. Id. at p.
11. Therefore, Plaintiff suggests that reversal/remand is
warranted. After a review of the evidence, I disagree.
argument misconstrues the general requirements of the Act. To
be eligible for benefits, a 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. 1986). Plaintiff
has pointed to no evidence to suggest that Plaintiff's
prior hospital procedures would continue into the future on a
continuous basis of at least 12 months, nor has Plaintiff
pointed to any medical opinion evidence suggesting Plaintiff