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Webster v. Berryhill

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

January 22, 2018

NANCY BERRYHILL,[1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          BRANN, J.


          JOSEPH F. SAPORITO, JR. U.S. Magistrate Judge.

         This is an action brought under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), seeking judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying Clifton B. Webster III's claims for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act. This matter has been referred to the undersigned Magistrate Judge for the preparation of the report and recommended disposition pursuant to the provisions of 28 U.S.C. §636(b) and Rule 72(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

         For the reasons stated herein, we respectfully recommend that the decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED.

         I. Background and Procedural History

         Webster is an adult individual born February 7, 1955. He was fifty-seven years old at the time of the alleged onset of disability-January 9, 2013. (Tr. 30).

         Webster's age at the onset date places him in a category of a “person of advanced age” under the Commissioner's regulations whose age significantly affects a person's ability to adjust to other work. See 20 C.F.R. §404.1568(d)(4).

         On May 17, 2013, Webster protectively filed an application for benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act alleging disability as of January 9, 2013. In his application, Webster alleged that the following impairments prevent him from engaging in any work: agoraphobia, depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, bipolar disorder. (Tr. 184).

         Webster's claim was initially denied on September 27, 2013. Thereafter, on October 16, 2013, Webster filed a timely request for an administrative hearing. His request was granted. Webster appeared and testified before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Timothy Wing on February 24, 2015. Webster was represented by counsel, Valeen Hykes, throughout the proceeding. In addition, impartial vocational expert (“VE”) Carmine Abraham also appeared and testified during the administrative hearing.

         On May 4, 2015, the ALJ denied Webster's application for benefits in a written decision. On May 26, 2015, Webster sought further review of his claims by the Appeals Council of the Office of Disability Adjudication and Review, but his request was denied on October 13, 2016. This makes the ALJ's May 4, 2015, decision the final decision subject to judicial review by this Court.

         Webster filed a timely complaint in this Court on December 3, 2016. (Doc. 1). In his complaint, Webster alleges that the final decision of the Commissioner is not supported by substantial evidence, contains errors of law, and should be reversed and/or remanded for a new hearing.

         On February 7, 2017, the Commissioner filed her answer, in which she maintains that the ALJ's decision was made in accordance with the law and is supported by substantial evidence. (Doc. 8).

         This matter has been fully briefed by the parties and is ripe for decision. (Docs. 10, 11, and 12).

         At the time of the administrative hearing, Webster was sixty years old and has resided with his son, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, which is in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. (Tr. 82-83). Prior to moving-in with his son, Webster resided in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, with his wife. Webster completed a ninth-grade education without any further education. (Tr. 82). Webster stated that his reading and writing skills are not good, but he is able to do day-to-day business. (Tr. 82).

         Webster's past work includes: auto clerk, pharmacy driver, and car sales. (Tr. 44, 131, 137).

         Webster points out that his most serious health issue that causes him to be unable to work is obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). (Tr. 85). He also indicated that his most serious physical health issue that prevents him from working would be his neuropathy. (Tr. 85). He stated that when he sleeps he has sharp foot pain. He stated there is no certain time of the day this would happen-it can happen anytime. He stated that when the neuropathy is acting up, it causes him to have trouble walking, where at times, his left foot would flop. (Tr. 86). Webster was prescribed triptyline, which seemed to limit the events of the neuropathy. (Tr. 87). Webster was able to walk one mile per day. (Tr. 88).

         Webster stated that he needs some psychiatric counseling but he cannot afford it. He stated he borrows money from friends to pay his co-pays. (Tr. 92). Webster stated that the only side effects of his medications are tiredness. (Tr. 92).

         Webster's medical records reflect that he was seen at Saxon Psychiatric Services from March 30, 2009, through April 25, 2013. Beginning in October 2013 through August 2014, Webster was seen by ...

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