United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
F. SAPORITO, JR. UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an action brought under 42 U.S.C. §405(g), seeking
judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's
(“Commissioner”) final decision denying David
Bjorn Hollinger's claim for disability insurance benefits
under Title II of the Social Security Act. This matter has
been referred to the undersigned United States 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
reasons stated herein, we respectfully recommend that the
Commissioner's final decision be
VACATED, and the case
REMANDED to the Commissioner.
I. Background and Procedural
Bjorn Hollinger (“Hollinger”) is an adult
individual born March 13, 1955. Hollinger was fifty-eight
years old at the time of the alleged onset of
disability-April 1, 2013. (Tr. 17). Hollinger's age at
the onset date makes him an individual “closely
approaching advanced age” under the Commissioner's
regulations whose age would be considered along with any
severe impairments which may seriously affect the ability to
adjust to other work. See 20 C.F.R. §416.963.
September 23, 2013, Hollinger protectively filed an
application for benefits under Title II of the Social
Security Act alleging disability as of April 1,
2013. In his application, Hollinger alleged that
the following impairments prevent him from engaging in any
work: diabetes, hearing loss, acute glaucoma, back pain,
sleep apnea and gastroesophageal reflux disease. (Tr. 118).
claim was initially denied on April 4, 2014. Thereafter, he
filed a timely request for an administrative hearing. His
request was granted. Hollinger appeared and testified at
hearings before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
Sharon Zanotto on June 19, 2015, and April 28, 2016.
Hollinger was represented by counsel, Jerrold A. Sulcove,
throughout both proceedings. In addition, impartial
vocational expert Michael Kibler (“VE Kibler”)
appeared at the first hearing and impartial vocational expert
Dr. Paul Anderson (“VE Anderson”) appeared at the
17, 2016, the ALJ denied Hollinger's application for
benefits in a written decision. On July 15, 2016, Hollinger
sought further review of his claims by the Appeals Council,
but his request was denied on February 27, 2017. This makes
the ALJ's May 2016 decision the final decision subject to
judicial review by this Court.
filed a timely complaint in this Court on March 27, 2017.
(Doc. 1). In his complaint, Hollinger alleges that the final
decision of the Commissioner is not supported by substantial
evidence and is contrary to law and regulation.
31, 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.
matter has been fully briefed by the parties and is ripe for
decision. (Docs. 12, 13, and 14).
Statement of Facts
time of the first administrative hearing, Hollinger was sixty
years old. At the second administrative hearing, Hollinger
was sixty-one years old and resided in Saint Thomas,
Pennsylvania, which is in the Middle District of
Pennsylvania. Hollinger completed a high school education and
four years of college. (Tr. 126, 238). Hollinger also
attended IT classes; he holds a Security Plus Certification
along with having a Six-Sigma green belt. (Tr. 238).
lives in a two story home with his wife. (Tr. 87). Hollinger
stated that there is a bedroom, kitchen, dining room, living
room, and bathroom, which includes a shower on the first
floor. (Tr. 87). There is no laundry area in their home, it
is in the tenant home. (Tr. 88).
previous job was a program manager. He left because there was
a reduction in force (RIF). (Tr. 89). Hollinger stated that
had he not lost his job due to RIF, his ability to work would
have been affected due to: (1) his diabetes and uncontrolled
blood sugar (Tr. 89); (2) his hearing loss and use of hearing
aids (Tr. 94); (3) his hearing impediment; (4) his eyesight
issues (Tr. 95); and (5) obesity. Particularly, in his
business of IT, his hearing impediment makes it difficult for
him to hear on the telephone. (Tr. 95). He stated that it is
easier for him to use the speaker-phone option of the
telephone, because if he puts the receiver to his ear, it
creates a loud noise when it is next to his hearing aids.
(Tr. 110). The blood clots and floaters in his eyes make it
difficult to see clearly. Hollinger had laser surgery
approximately seven weeks prior to the hearing. (Tr. 99). He
stated his obesity makes it hard for him to bend over. His
wife ties his shoes, although he tries to wear slip-on shoes
or sandals. (Tr. 100).
attends meetings of Mason's two to three times per month
and they last approximately one to two hours. (Tr. 100-01).
stated that he uses a cane. He has fallen down in the past
and needed help to get up, so he uses the cane for balance.
lives on a working farm. He stated that he has a tenant who
does most of the farm work. Hollinger stated he does the
watering of the animals with a hydrant and hose. (Tr. 102).
He does not typically feed them unless the tenant, and his
wife are unavailable. Feeding them requires filling a bucket
of grain and scooping it into the feeders. (Tr. 102).
Hollinger also ...