United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
the Court are the Objections of Plaintiff Evette Nixon-Gross
to the Report and Recommendation of United States Magistrate
Judge David R. Strawbridge. (Doc. No. 13.) On August 22,
2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against Defendant
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration alleging
that Defendant wrongfully denied Plaintiff disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the
Social Security Act (“Act”), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434. (Doc. No. 1.) On March 30, 2017, the
Court referred the case to Magistrate Judge Strawbridge for a
Report and Recommendation (“R&R”). (Doc. No.
11.) On September 29, 2017, Magistrate Judge Strawbridge
issued the R&R, recommending that Plaintiff's request
for review be denied. (Doc. No. 12.) On October 4, 2017,
Plaintiff timely filed Objections. (Doc. No. 13.) On October
5, 2017, Defendant filed a Response to Plaintiff's
Objections. (Doc. No. 15.)
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 independently
reviewing the Administrative Record (“Record”)
and for reasons that follow, the Court will adopt and approve
the R&R (Doc. No. 12) in its entirety.
Factual and Procedural Background
Evette Nixon-Gross was born on April 9, 1962 and was
forty-nine years old on the date her alleged disability
began. (Administrative Record (“R.”) at 182.)
Plaintiff is a college graduate. (R. at 207.) From 1995 to
2007, she was employed full time as a contract specialist and
project manager for the Philadelphia Housing Authority, and
from 2008 to 2012, she was employed full time as a school
district police officer. (Id.)
November 29, 2012, Plaintiff applied for DIB, alleging a
disability commencing February 12, 2012. (R. at 182.) It is
unclear from the Record what occurred on February 12, 2012 to
cause Plaintiff's disability, but this was the date that
Plaintiff notified the school district that she needed to
take medical leave. (R. at 181.) On March 1, 2012, Plaintiff
sought psychological services. (R. at 354.) On March 21,
2012, while on leave, she was involved in a motor vehicle
accident. (R. at 318.) The accident left her unable to work
and led to her formal separation from the school district in
October 2012. (R. at 566.) In her application for DIB,
Plaintiff reported that her ability to work was limited by
depression, anxiety, left facet injury, panic attacks,
cervical spine sprain and strain, protruding lumbar disc, and
deformity of left wrist/severe pain. (R. at 206.)
February 15, 2013, Plaintiff's application was denied (R.
at 115-19), and on March 8, 2013, she requested a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (R. at
132). On June 13, 2014, an administrative hearing was held
before ALJ Regina Warren. (R. at 40-100.) At the hearing,
Plaintiff was represented by counsel, and Plaintiff and a
vocational expert testified. (R. at 22.) In addition to
hearing testimony, the ALJ considered Plaintiff's medical
records from various physicians. (R. at 274-355.)
December 30, 2014, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not
disabled within the meaning of the Act and denied her request
for DIB. (R. at 33.) Plaintiff filed a request for review of
the ALJ's decision with the Social Security Appeals
Council (R. at 17-18), and on June 20, 2016, the Appeals
Council denied her request (R. at 1-4).
August 22, 2016, Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this Court,
seeking judicial review of the ALJ's decision pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Doc. No. 1.) The Court referred the
matter to Magistrate Judge David R. Strawbridge for an
R&R. (Doc. No. 11.) On September 29, 2017, the Magistrate
Judge filed an R&R recommending that Plaintiff's
request for review be denied. (Doc. No. 12.) On October 4,
2017, Plaintiff filed Objections to the R&R (Doc. No.
13), which are now ripe for a decision.
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 has the burden of
proving the existence of a disability and can satisfy this
burden by showing an inability to return to former work.
Rossi v. Califano, 602 F.2d 55, 57 (3d Cir. 1979).
If she does so, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show
that, given the claimant's age, education, and work
experience, she is able to perform specific jobs that exist
in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A); 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(f).
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 ...