United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
the Court are the Objections of Plaintiff Robert Forney to
the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate
Judge Carol Sandra Moore Wells. (Doc. No. 25.) On May 15,
2017, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Defendant
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, alleging
that Defendant wrongfully denied his claim for disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) under Title II and Title
XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401-434, 1381-1383f. (Doc. No. 18.)
March 6, 2017, the Court referred the case to Magistrate
Judge Wells for a Report and Recommendation
(“R&R”). (Doc. No. 21.) On August 22, 2017,
Magistrate Judge Wells issued the R&R and recommended
that Plaintiff's request for review be denied. (Doc. No.
22.) On September 15, 2017, Plaintiff filed Objections to the
R&R. (Doc. No. 25.) Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §
636(b)(1), the Court has conducted a de novo review
of the portions of the R&R to which objections have been
made. After an independent review of the Record, and for
reasons that follow, the Court finds that Plaintiff's
Objections lack merit and will adopt and approve the
disposition of the R&R in accordance with the reasoning
provided in this Opinion.
22, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for DIB related to
an alleged disability which he had since May 1, 2007.
(Administrative Record (“R.”) at 10.) On August
20, 2013, the application was denied. (Id.) On
September 17, 2013, Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).
March 23, 2015, ALJ Frank Barletta held a hearing.
(Id.) Plaintiff, who was represented by counsel,
testified at the hearing. (R. at 28-48.) He said that he
suffered psychological impairments caused by major depression
and anxiety (R. at 36-37) and physical impairments caused by
carpal tunnel syndrome and arthritis (R. at 43). Christine A.
Carrozza Slusarski, an independent vocational expert
(“VE”), also testified. (R. at 49-55.) On May 1,
2015, the ALJ issued an opinion (“ALJ's
Decision”) finding that Plaintiff was not disabled
under the terms of the Social Security Act from May 1, 2007,
the alleged start of the disability, through the date of his
decision. (R. at 21.)
15, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Request for Review of Hearing
Decision/Order seeking reconsideration of the ALJ's
Decision. (R. at 5.) On February 5, 2016, the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request, making the ALJ's Decision
the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. at 1-3.) On May
15, 2016, Plaintiff appealed that decision to this Court by
filing the Complaint. (Doc. No. 3.) As already noted, on
March 6, 2017, the Court referred the case to Magistrate
Judge Carol Sandra Moore Wells for an R&R (Doc. No. 21),
and on August 22, 2017, Magistrate Judge Wells issued the
R&R recommending that Plaintiff's Request for Review
be denied. (Doc. No. 22.) On September 15, 2017, Plaintiff
timely filed the Objections that are now before this Court
for consideration. (Doc. No. 25.)
Relevant Social Security Administration Regulations
prove a “disability, ” a claimant must
demonstrate “the inability to do any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result
in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 20
C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). The claimant bears the burden of
proving the existence of a disability and will satisfy this
burden by showing an inability to return to former work.
Rossi v. Califano, 602 F.2d 55, 57 (3d Cir. 1979).
If he does so, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show
that, given the claimant's age, education, and work
experience, he is able to perform specific jobs that exist in
the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A); 20
evaluating a disability, the Social Security Administration
uses a five-step process, which is followed in a set order:
(i) At the first step, we consider your work activity, if
any. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will
find that you are not disabled.
(ii) At the second step, we consider the medical severity of
your impairment(s). If you do not have a severe medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the
duration requirement in § 404.1509, or a combination of
impairments that is severe and meets the duration
requirement, we will find that you are not disabled.
(iii) At the third step, we also consider the medical
severity of your impairment(s). If you have an impairment(s)
that meets or equals one of our listings in appendix 1 of
this subpart and meets the duration requirement, we will find
that you are disabled.
(iv) At the fourth step, we consider our assessment of your
residual functional capacity and your past relevant work. If
you can still do your past relevant work, we will find that
you are not disabled.
(v) At the fifth and last step, we consider our assessment of
your residual functional capacity and your age, education,
and work experience to see if you can make an adjustment to
other work. If you can make an adjustment to other work, we
will find that you are not disabled. If you cannot make an
adjustment to other work, we will find that you are disabled.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
review of a final decision of the Commissioner is limited. A
district court is bound by the factual findings of the
Commissioner if they are supported by substantial evidence
and decided according to correct legal standards. Brown
v. Astrue, 649 F.3d 193, 195 (3d Cir. 2011) (citing
Knepp v. Apfel, 204 F.3d 78, 83 (3d Cir. 2000));
Allen v. Bowen, 881 F.2d 37, 39 (3d Cir. 1989).
Substantial evidence is “more than a mere scintilla,
” and consists of “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate.” Burnett
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 220 F.3d 112, 118 (3d Cir.
2000) (citing Plummer v. Apfel, 186 F.3d 422, 427
(3d Cir. 1999)). The Court also must determine whether the
ALJ applied the proper legal standards in evaluating a claim
of disability. McHerrin v. Astrue, No. CIV. A.
09-2035, 2010 WL 3516433, at *2 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 31, 2010)
(citing Coria v. Heckler, 750 F.2d 245, 247 (3d Cir.