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. 9 and 11). Both parties have filed Briefs in Support of
their Motions. (ECF Nos. 10, 12 and 15). 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. 9) 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 her applications for
supplemental security income and child's insurance
benefits pursuant to the Social Security Act. Plaintiff filed
her applications alleging disability began on December 1,
2002. (ECF No. 7-5, pp. 2, 25). Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), David F. Brash, held a hearing on
December 15, 2014. (ECF No. 7-4, pp. 32-67). On April 15,
2015, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled under the
Act. (ECF No. 7-2, pp. 11-26).
exhausting all administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed the
instant action with this court. The parties have filed
Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF Nos. 9 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 Amore 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. Â§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 U.S.C.
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).
Residual Functional Capacity
asserts that the ALJ erred in determining her RFC. (ECF No.
10, pp. 14-16). To that end, Plaintiff first specifically
argues that the ALJ erred in failing “to take into
account that plaintiff's level of mental functioning is
occurring in the context of a supported living
environment.” (ECF No. 10, p. 4). I disagree. The ALJ
went through the entire record, including medical and
non-medical evidence, as well as, testimony from Plaintiff
and her father describing, in detail, Plaintiff's ability
to function and in what context. (ECF No. 7-2, pp. 11-26).
Simply because the ALJ did not lay out the context in the way
that Plaintiff prefers does not mean that the ALJ did not
adequately and properly consider the same. After a review of
the record, I find that ALJ properly considered the context
of Plaintiff's supported living environment.
Consequently, I find no error in this regard.
Plaintiff submits that the ALJ erred in failing to adequately
explain the weight given to the opinion evidence of Dr.
Wright. (ECF No. 10, pp. 8-10). As Plaintiff points out, the
ALJ gave Dr. Wright's opinion great weight. (ECF No. 7-2,
p. 23). Plaintiff, however, suggests that the ALJ did not
adequately “explain why he did not adopt her opinion
that Plaintiff requires supervision for most tasks.”
(ECF No. 10, p. 8). Plaintiff, ...