United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
Donetta W. Ambrose United States Senior District Judge
before the court are Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF
Nos. 9 and 12). Both parties have filed Briefs in Support of
their Motions. (ECF Nos. 11 and 13). After careful
consideration of the submissions of the parties, and based on
my Opinion set forth below, I am denying Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 9) and granting
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 12).
brought this action for review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying his applications for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and
supplemental security income (“SSI”) pursuant to
the Social Security Act. Plaintiff filed his applications
alleging disability since February 11, 2012. (ECF No. 7-5,
pp. 3, 10). Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”),
William J. Bezego, held a video hearing on March 22, 2016.
(ECF No. 7-2, pp. 40-74). On April 6, 2016, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. (ECF No. 7-2,
exhausting all administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed the
instant action with this court. The parties have filed
Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF Nos. 9 and 12). The
issues are now ripe for review.
Standard of Review
standard of review in social security cases is whether
substantial evidence exists in the record to support the
Commissioner's decision. Allen v. Bowen, 881
F.2d 37, 39 (3d Cir. 1989). Substantial evidence has been
defined as “more than a mere scintilla. It means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate.” Ventura v. Shalala, 55 F.3d 900,
901 (3d Cir. 1995), quoting Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). Additionally, the
Commissioner's findings of fact, if supported by
substantial evidence, are conclusive. 42 U.S.C. §405(g);
Dobrowolsky v. Califano, 606 F.2d 403, 406 (3d Cir.
1979). A district court cannot conduct a de novo
review of the Commissioner's decision or re-weigh the
evidence of record. Palmer v. Apfel, 995 F.Supp.
549, 552 (E.D. Pa. 1998). Where the ALJ's findings of
fact are supported by substantial evidence, a court is bound
by those findings, even if the court would have decided the
factual inquiry differently. Hartranft v. Apfel, 181
F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir. 1999). To determine whether a finding
is supported by substantial evidence, however, the district
court must review the record as a whole. See, 5
eligible for social security benefits, the plaintiff must
demonstrate that he cannot engage in substantial gainful
activity because of a 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 at least 12 months. 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(1)(A);
Brewster v. Heckler, 786 F.2d 581, 583 (3d Cir.
Commissioner has provided the ALJ with a five-step sequential
analysis to use when evaluating the disabled status of each
claimant. 20 C.F.R. §404.1520(a). The ALJ must
determine: (1) whether the claimant is currently engaged in
substantial gainful activity; (2) if not, whether the
claimant has a severe impairment; (3) if the claimant has a
severe impairment, whether it meets or equals the criteria
listed in 20 C.F.R., pt. 404, subpt. P., appx. 1; (4) if the
impairment does not satisfy one of the impairment listings,
whether the claimant's impairments prevent him from
performing his past relevant work; and (5) if the claimant is
incapable of performing his past relevant work, whether he
can perform any other work which exists in the national
economy, in light of his age, education, work experience and
residual functional capacity. 20 C.F.R. §404.1520. The
claimant carries the initial burden of demonstrating by
medical evidence that he is unable to return to his previous
employment (steps 1-4). Dobrowolsky, 606 F.2d at
406. Once the claimant meets this burden, the burden of proof
shifts to the Commissioner to show that the claimant can
engage in alternative substantial gainful activity (step 5).
district court, after reviewing the entire record may affirm,
modify, or reverse the decision with or without remand to the
Commissioner for rehearing. Podedworny v. Harris,
745 F.2d 210, 221 (3d Cir. 1984).
Plaintiff's Complaints of Pain
argues that the ALJ erred in finding Plaintiff's
complaints of pain not entirely consistent. (ECF No. 11, pp.
15-17). In considering the intensity, persistence, and
limiting effects of an individual's symptoms (including
pain), the ALJ will examine the entire case record, including
the objective medical evidence; an individual's
statements about the intensity, persistence, and limiting
effects of symptoms; statements and other information
provided by medical sources and other persons; and any other
relevant evidence in the individual's case record. SSR
16-3p. Additionally, the ALJ will consider treating,
examining and consulting physicians, observations from agency
employees, and other factors such as the claimant's daily
activities, descriptions of the pain, precipitating and
aggravating factors, type, dosage, effectiveness, and side
effects of medications, treatment other than medication, and
other measures used to relieve the pain. 20 C.F.R.
§§416.929(c), 404.1529(c); SSR 16-3p. The ALJ will
also look at inconsistencies between the claimant's
statements and the evidence presented. Id. I must
defer to the ALJ's determinations, unless they are not
supported by substantial evidence. Smith v.
Califano, 637 F.2d 968, 972 (3d Cir. 1981); Baerga
v. Richardson, 500 F.2d 309, 312 (3d Cir. 1974),
cert. denied, 420 U.S. 931 (1975).
review of the record, I find that the ALJ followed the proper
method as set forth above. (ECF No. 7-2, pp. 27-34). For
example, while assessing Plaintiff's credibility, the ALJ
compared the medical evidence and other evidence of record to
his complaints and found them to be contradictory.
Id. Thus, I find the ALJ properly evaluated
Plaintiff's symptoms as required by 20 C.F.R.
§§416.929, 404.1529 and SSR 16-3p. Furthermore,
based on the entire record as a whole, I find there is
substantial evidence to support the ALJ's decision that
Plaintiff's complaints ...