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. 11 and 13). Both parties have filed Briefs in Support of
their Motions. (ECF Nos. 12 and 14). After careful
consideration of the submissions of the parties, and based on
my Opinion set forth below, I am granting Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 11) and denying
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 13).
brought this action for review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying her applications for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
insurance benefits pursuant to the Social Security Act.
Plaintiff filed her applications alleging she had been
disabled since November 19, 2014. (ECF No. 9-7, pp. 8, 10).
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), John A. Fraser,
held a hearing on October 26, 2016. (ECF No. 9-3, pp. 2-40).
On December 16, 2016, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not
disabled under the Social Security Act. (ECF No. 9-1, pp.
exhausting all of her administrative remedies thereafter,
Plaintiff filed this action. The parties have filed
Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF Nos. 11 and 13). 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).
Jobs in the National Economy
only argument is that the ALJ erred in determining whether
there are jobs existing in significant numbers in the
national economy that she could perform. (ECF No. 12).
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ's residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) was for sedentary work and that
the jobs referenced by the ALJ that he believed she could
perform were for light work. (ECF No. 12, pp. 5-7). As a
result, Plaintiff submits that remand is warranted. After a
review of the record, I agree.
hearing in this case, the ALJ solicited testimony from a
vocational expert (“VE”). (ECF No. 9-2, pp.
22-36). The ALJ asked the VE to assume a hypothetical
involving someone who could perform light work and then the
ALJ asked a hypothetical involving someone who could perform
sedentary work. Id. An ALJ is required to accept
only that testimony from the vocational expert which
accurately reflects a plaintiff's impairments. See,
Podedworny v. Harris, 745 F.2d 210 (3d Cir. 1984);
Chrupcala v. Heckler, 829 F.2d 1269, 1276 (3d Cir.
1987). The ALJ found Plaintiff to have an RFC of sedentary
work with certain limitations. (ECF No. 9-2, p. 25). Yet, in
his decision, Plaintiff relied on the testimony from the VE
related to the hypothetical involving someone who could
perform light work. (ECF No. 9-2, p. 31). Specifically, in
his opinion the ALJ found that plaintiff could perform the
jobs of a companion,  a garment sorter and a paper-pattern
folder. Id. All of those jobs, however, require an