United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
MALACHY E. MANNION UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
before the court is the report of Magistrate Judge Martin C.
Carlson, which recommends that the decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying the plaintiffs
application for benefits be affirmed. (Doc. 11). The
plaintiff has filed objections to the report. (Doc. 12).
Based upon the court's review of record in this matter,
the report of Judge Carlson will be adopted in its entirety;
the plaintiff's objections will be overruled; and the
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying the
plaintiffs claims for benefits will be affirmed.
objections are timely filed to the report and recommendation
of a magistrate judge, the district court must review de
novo those portions of the report to which objections
are made. 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1); Brown v.
AstrueT 649 F.3d 193, 195 (3d Cir. 2011).
Although the standard is de novo, the extent of
review is committed to the sound discretion of the district
judge, and the court may rely on the recommendations of the
magistrate judge to the extent it deems proper. Rieder v.
Apfel 115 F.Supp.2d 496, 499 (M.D.Pa. 2000) (citing
United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 676 (1980)).
those sections of the report and recommendation to which no
objection is made, the court should, as a matter of good
practice, "satisfy itself that there is no clear error
on the face of the record in order to accept the
recommendation." Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b), advisory committee
notes; see also Univac Dental Co. v. Dentsply Intern..
Inc.. 702 F.Supp.2d 465, 469 (M.D.Pa. 2010) (citing
Henderson v. Carlson. 812 F.2d 874, 878 (3d Cir.
1987) (explaining judges should give some review to every
report and recommendation)). Nevertheless, whether timely
objections are made or not, the district court may accept,
not accept, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or
recommendations made by the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C.
§636(b)(1); Local Rule 72.31.
case, the plaintiff filed claims for Social Security
Disability Insurance Benefits, ("DIB"), and
Supplemental Security Income, ("SSI"), benefits
claiming disability due to bipolar disorder, depression and
anxiety. In the Commissioner's latest
decision, it has been determined that the plaintiff
has the residual functional capacity to perform her past
relevant work activity as a warehouse worker with various
non-exertional restrictions. The instant action is the
plaintiffs appeal of the Commissioner's decision. In his
report, Judge Carlson found that the Commissioner's
decision is supported by substantial evidence and should
therefore be affirmed. The plaintiff disagrees and has filed
objections to Judge Carlson's report.
objections, the plaintiff initially argues that both the ALJ
and Judge Carlson gave undue weight to the Global Assessment
of Functioning, ("GAF"), scores in her medical
records. A GAF score is a subjective scale previously set
forth in the American Psychiatric Associations'
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health,
("DSM"), which "assesses how well an
individual can function according to psychological, social,
and occupational parameters, with the lowest scores assigned
to individuals who are unable [to] care for themselves."
Falcone v. Berryhill, 2018 WL 638453,
at**4-5(M.D.Pa. Jan. 31, 2018) (citing Pounds v.
Astrue. 772 F.Supp.2d 713, 716, n.2 (W.D.Pa. 2011));
DIAGNOSTIC & STATISTICAL MANUAL OF MENTAL DISORDERS
score allows a clinician to indicate his judgment of a
person's overall psychological, social and occupational
functioning, in order to assess the person's mental
health illness, and is set within a particular range if
either the symptom severity or the level of functioning falls
within that range. DIAGNOSTIC AND STATISTICAL MANUAL OF
MENTAL DISORDERS 3-32 (FOURTH). A GAF score of 31-40
represents some impairment in reality testing or
communication or major impairment in several areas, such as
work or school, family relations, judgment, thinking or mood;
a score of 41-50 indicates serious symptoms or any serious
impairment in social, occupational or school functioning; a
score of 51-60 represents moderate symptoms or any moderate
difficulty in social, occupational, or school functioning;
and a score of 61-70 indicates some mild symptoms (e.g.
depressed mood and mild insomnia) or some difficulty in
social, occupational, or school functioning (e.g. occasional
truancy, or theft within the household) but generally
functioning pretty well, has some meaningful interpersonal
past, the GAF score was seen as useful in planning treatment
and predicting outcomes. Id. The law, however,
provides that "[a] GAF score does not have a direct
correlation to the severity requirements of the Social
Security mental disorder listings." Falcone,
supra (citing Pounds v. Astrue. 772
F.Supp.2d at 723; Gilroy v. Astrue. 351 Fed.
App'x. 714, 715 (3d Cir. 2009)). Moreover, the latest
edition of the DSM recommended that the GAF scoring scale be
discontinued explaining that the GAF scale has a conceptual
lack of clarity and "questionable psychometrics in
routine practice." DIAGNOSTIC AND STATISTICAL MANUAL OF
MENTAL DISORDERS (FIFTH) at 16. Thus, the latest edition of
the DSM does not contain the GAF scale. It is apparent that
GAF scores are of limited value in determining whether an
individual is disabled.
however, despite the plaintiffs objections, the court finds
that the discussion of her GAF score did not unduly prejudice
the plaintiff. The plaintiffs GAF score was just one element
of the evidence considered. Other evidence included,
inter alia, the medical opinions and objective
evidence of record, as well as the plaintiffs subjective
complaints and activities of daily living. As such, the court
finds that the ALJ's and magistrate judge's
discussion of the plaintiffs GAF scores does not negate the
conclusion that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
plaintiff further argues that the ALJ failed to consider her
inability to perform sustained work activity and her
inability to tolerate any stress. Specifically, the plaintiff
argues that her treating psychiatrist, Dr. Cohen, opined that
she was markedly limited in completing a normal workweek and
would be expected to be absent from work more than three
times per month and that she usually reacts "extremely
when [she] feels frustrated or to minor irritants". She
further points out that the state agency psychologist, Dr.
Morcos, wrote that her psychiatric impairments "may be
significant enough to interfere with [her] ability to
function on a daily basis" and that she "cannot
appropriately deal with stress".
the foregoing assessments, as thoroughly discussed by Judge
Carlson, there is a process by which an ALJ is to evaluate
and weigh medical opinions of record. In fulfilling its role,
the court is to recognize that where there are factual issues
"[t]he ALJ - not the treating or examining physicians or
State agency consultants - must make the ultimate disability
and RFC determinations." Chandlery. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec. 667 F.3d 356, 361 (3d Cir. 2011). As long as
the ALJ provides an adequate rationale for the weight given
to medical opinions, it is the province and duty of the ALJ
to determine the weight to be given to the medical opinions
and evidence. As discussed by Judge Carlson, in assessing the
medical evidence of record, the ALJ need not credit the
entire opinion, but may credit only parts of an opinion.
See Durden v. Colvin. 191 F.Supp.3d 429, 455
(M.D.Pa. 2016) (citations omitted).
consideration of the ALJ's decision and Judge
Carlson's report reviewing that decision, the undersigned
agrees with the report of Judge Carlson that the ALJ's
evaluation of the medical evidence complied with the dictates
of the law. The ALJ considered each of the medical opinions
of record and provided his rationale for the weight accorded
each decision. Relying on his reasoned assessment of the
evidence, including the medical evidence of record, the ALJ
determined the plaintiff's residual functional capacity.
The court agrees that ALJ's assessment of the medical
evidence and his residual functional capacity determination
are supported by substantial evidence.
the plaintiff argues that her subjective complaints of
fatigue, which are noted in various parts of the record, were
not given adequate consideration. With regard to this claim,
there is, again, a framework under which the ALJ must assess
the plaintiff's subjective complaints. Ultimately, the
ALJ's assessment of a claimant's credibility is to be
accorded great weight and substantial deference. Szallar
v. Comm'r Soc. Sec. 631 Fed. App'x 107, 110 (3d
Cir. 2015) (citing Zirnsak v. Colvin. 777 F.3d 607,
612-13 (3d Cir. 2014)).
the ALJ did reference the plaintiffs subjective complaints of
fatigue in her discussion. However, in considering the record
as a whole, including the plaintiff's self-report
activities of daily living and abilities, the ALJ did not
include the plaintiff's fatigue in her functional
limitations. Considering the record as a whole and giving the
substantial deference due, the undersigned finds, as did