United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
DAVID E. HANSLEY, SR., o/b/o DAVID EDGAR HANSLEY, JR., deceased, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
KAROLINE MEHALCHICK UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an action brought under Section 1383(c) of the Social
Security Act and 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security (hereinafter, “the Commissioner”)
denying Plaintiff David Edgar Hansley, Jr.'s claims for a
period of disability and disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) under Titles II and XVI of the Social
Security Act. (Doc. 1). The matter has been referred to the
undersigned United States Magistrate Judge to prepare a
report and recommendation 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 expressed herein, and upon
detailed consideration of the arguments raised by the parties
in their respective briefs, it is respectfully recommended
that the Commissioner's decision be VACATED.
Background and Procedural History
April 30, 2013, Plaintiff David Edgar Hansley, Jr.
(“Hansley”) filed applications for Title II and
Title XVI benefits, respectively. (Doc. 8-2, at 22). In these
applications, Hansley claimed disability beginning January 2,
2012. (Doc. 8-2, at 22). The Social Security Administration
initially denied Hansley's claims on October 2, 2013.
(Doc. 8-2, at 22). Hansley filed a request for a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on
October 17, 2013. (Doc. 8-2, at 22). The hearing was held on
March 26, 2015, before ALJ Joseph M. Hillegas. (Doc. 8-2, at
22). At the hearing, Hansley's counsel requested
amendment of the alleged onset date from January 2, 2012 to
June 7, 2014. (Doc. 8-2, at 22). Counsel attributed the
change to Hansley turning 50. (Doc. 8-2, at 41-42). In a
written opinion dated June 19, 2015, the ALJ determined that
Hansley was not disabled and therefore not entitled to the
benefits sought. (Doc. 8-2, at 33). Hansley appealed the
decision of the ALJ to the Appeals Council, who, on December
16, 2016, denied Hansley's request for review. (Doc. 8-2,
January of 2017, Hansley passed away. (Doc. 12, at 2). On
February 13, 2017, Hansley's father, David E. Hansley,
Sr., filed the instant action. (Doc. 1). The Commissioner
responded on April 14, 2017, providing the requisite
transcripts from the disability proceedings the same day.
(Doc. 7; Doc. 8). The parties then filed their respective
briefs, with the Plaintiff declining to file a reply brief.
(Doc. 12; Doc. 13; Doc. 16). Plaintiff alleges three errors
warranted reversal or remand. (Doc. 12, at 4).
The ALJ's Decision
decision dated June 19, 2015, the ALJ determined Hansley
“has not been under a disability, as defined in the
Social Security Act, from June 7, 2014, through the date of
this decision.” (Doc. 8-2, at 33). The ALJ reached this
conclusion after proceeding through the five-step sequential
analysis required by the Social Security Act. See20
C.F.R. § 404.1520. The ALJ determined that Hansley met
the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act
through December 31, 2015. (Doc. 8-2, at 24).
one, an ALJ must determine whether the claimant is engaging
in substantial gainful activity (“SGA”). 20 C.F.R
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i). If a claimant is engaging in SGA,
the Regulations deem them not disabled, regardless of age,
education, or work experience. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b).
SGA is defined as work activity-requiring significant
physical or mental activity-resulting in pay or profit. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1572. In making this determination, the ALJ
must consider only the earnings of the claimant. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1574. The ALJ determined Hansley “has not
engaged in [SGA] since June 7, 2014, the alleged onset
date.” (Doc. 8-2, at 24). Thus, the ALJ's analysis
proceeded to step two.
two, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has a
medically determinable impairment that is severe or a
combination of impairments that are severe. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(ii). If the ALJ determines that a claimant
does not have an “impairment or combination of
impairments which significantly limits [the claimant's]
physical or mental ability to do basic work activities, [the
ALJ] will find that [the claimant] does not have a severe
impairment and [is], therefore, not disabled.” 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). If a claimant establishes a severe
impairment or combination of impairments, the analysis
continues to the third step.
found Hansley “has the following severe impairments:
morbid obesity (testified 300 pounds currently and
5'5” tall and was referred by PCP for evaluation
with bariatric surgeon) [sic]; coronary arteriosclerosis
status-post stenting; diabetes mellitus without complication
[sic]; non-alcoholic fatty liver; benign essential
hypertension; and obstructive sleep apnea (does not use C-pap
every night).” (Doc. 8-2, at 24-25). The ALJ did not
identify any non-severe impairments.
three, the ALJ must determine whether the severe impairment
or combination of impairments meets or equals the medical
equivalent of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpt. P, App. 1 (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d);
404.1525; 404.1526). If the ALJ determines that the
claimant's impairments meet these listings, then the
claimant is considered disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(iii). The ALJ determined that none of
Hansley's impairments, considered individually or in
combination, met or equaled a Listing. (Doc. 8-2, at 24).
Specifically, the ALJ considered Listings 1.00
(musculoskeletal), 4.00 (cardiovascular), and 6.00
(genitourinary). (Doc. 8-2, at 25).
steps three and four, the ALJ determines the claimant's
residual functional capacity (“RFC”), crafted
upon consideration of the medical evidence provided. The ALJ
determined that Hansley:
has the [RFC] to perform to lift up to ten pounds frequently
and twenty pounds occasionally and stand/walk for up to six
hours out of an eight-hour workday and sit for up to six
hours (i.e., he can perform light work as defined by 20 CFR
404.1567(b) and 416.967(b). He is further limited to tasks
requiring no more than occasional climbing, balancing,
stooping, kneeling, crouching, or crawling. Due to insulin
dependence, he cannot maintain a commercial driver's
license and needs to take a five-minute break every hour to
accommodate urinary frequency.
(Doc. 8-2, at 25).
assessed a claimant's RFC, at step four the ALJ must
determine whether the claimant has the RFC to perform the
requirements of their past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(iv). A finding that the claimant can still
perform past relevant work requires a determination that the
claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(iv). Past relevant work is defined as work the
claimant has done within the past 15 years, that was
substantial gainful activity, and that lasted long enough for
the claimant to learn how to do it. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1560(b). If the claimant cannot perform past relevant
work or has no past relevant work, then the analysis proceeds
to the fifth step. The ALJ determined Hansley was unable to
perform past relevant work. (Doc. 8-2, at 32). The ALJ noted
past relevant work as a truck driver, but determined that the
exertional requirements of the job exceeded Hansley's
RFC. (Doc. 8-2, at 32).
five of the sequential analysis process, an ALJ considers the
claimant's age, education, and work experience to see if
a claimant can make the adjustment to other work. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v). These factors are not considered
when evaluating a claimant's ability to perform past
relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1560(b)(3). If a claimant
has the ability to make an adjustment to other work, they
will not be considered disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
made vocational determinations that Hansley was 50 years old
on the alleged onset date, defined as an individual closely
approaching advanced age by the Regulations. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1563. (Doc. 8-2, at 32). The ALJ also noted that Hansley
“has at least a high school education and is able to
communicate in English” as considered in 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1564. (Doc. 8-2, at 32). The ALJ determined that
upon consideration of these factors, Hansley's RFC, and
the testimony of a vocational expert, “there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy