United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
F. SAPORITO, JR. U.S. Magistrate Judge
an action brought under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), seeking
judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's
final decision denying Renee Kathleen Vargas'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.
reasons stated herein, we respectfully recommend that the
decision of the Commissioner be AFFIRMED.
Background and Procedural History
is an adult individual born August 7, 1975. She was
thirty-seven years old at the time of the alleged onset of
disability-March 1, 2013. (Tr. 82).
age at the onset date places her in a category of a
“younger person” under the Commissioner's
regulations whose age generally does not affect her ability
to adjust to other work.
March 11, 2013, Vargas protectively filed an application for
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act alleging
disability as of December 1, 2012. In her application, Vargas
alleged that the following impairments prevent her from
engaging in any work: atrial fibrillation, arthritis in back
and knee, ulcers, and depression. (Tr. 82).
claim was initially denied on September 12, 2013. Thereafter,
on October 16, 2013, Vargas filed a timely request for an
administrative hearing. Her request was granted. Vargas
appeared and testified before Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Richard Zack on February 26, 2015. Vargas
was represented by counsel, John D. Michelin, throughout the
proceeding. In addition, impartial vocational expert
(“VE”) Nadine Henzes also appeared and testified
during the administrative hearing.
March 23, 2015, the ALJ denied Vargas's application for
benefits in a written decision. On May 26, 2015, Vargas
sought further review of her claims by the Appeals Council,
but her request was denied on August 23, 2016. This makes the
ALJ's March 23, 2015, decision the final decision subject
to judicial review by this Court.
filed a timely complaint in this Court on September 30, 2016.
(Doc. 1). In her complaint, Vargas 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.
December 16, 2016, 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).
matter has been fully briefed by the parties and is ripe for
decision. (Docs. 11, 12, and 13).
Statement of Facts
time of the administrative hearing, Vargas was thirty nine
years old and resided with her husband and three children
ages, 17, 16, and 10, in Long Pond, Pennsylvania, which is in
the Middle District of Pennsylvania. (Tr. 40). Vargas's
past work includes: janitor and security guard. (Tr. 153).
stated that she wakes up around 6:30 a.m., takes her children
to the bus, depending on her day, and then she takes her
medication and goes back to sleep. (Tr. 42).
stated that because of the pain in her knees, her daughter
helps her with the chores around the house. Vargas seldom
goes up and down the steps. (Tr. 42). She stated that she
does laundry one to two times a week and dusts once a month
with the help of her husband and children. (Tr. 147).
stated at the hearing that she does not prepare meals, and as
a consequence her children eat mostly tv-dinners. (Tr. 42).
She stated that she takes her two older children to the
grocery store with her, and if she has pain while there, she
gives them the list and they call her when they are ready to
go to register to pay. (Tr. 43).
is able to care for her personal needs. (Tr. 146).
hearing, Vargas stated that she has no hobbies. (Tr. 43).
stated she does not do her hair with the flat iron any longer
because her arms hurt, and become numb, tingly, and cramped.
stated that she thought she was getting worse even with the
treatment she was receiving at the time of the hearing. (Tr.
stated that the pain in her lower back feels like cramping,
tingling, sharp pains, and stiffness. (Tr. 43).
stated that she could probably walk 5 to 10 minutes before
experiencing pain, pinching, tingling, and numbness in her
neck, in which event, she has to lean on something or sit
down. (Tr. 43-44). She stated then she would have to lay
down. (Tr. 44).
stated she does not bend over to pick things up, and really
does not climb stairs often because of the pain in ...