United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MARY T. LEWIS, Plaintiff
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
C. MITCHELL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
before the Court for disposition are cross motions for
summary judgment. For the reasons set forth below, the
plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 12) will
be granted; the defendant's motion for summary judgment
(ECF No. 17) will be denied, and the determination of the
defendant will be reversed.
November 27, 2017, Mary T. Lewis by her counsel, filed a
complaint pursuant to Sections 205(g) and 1631(c)(3) of the
Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§405(g)
and 1383(c)(3) for review of the Commissioner's final
determination disallowing her claim for a period of
disability or for disability insurance benefits and
supplemental security income benefits under Sections 216(i)
and 223 of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C.
§§416(i) and 423 and 1381 cf.
plaintiff filed applications for disability and supplemental
security income benefits on June 6, 2014 and August 3, 2015
respectively (R.148-149). Benefits were denied on August 25,
2014(R.83-86). On September 9, 2014, the plaintiff requested
a hearing (R.87), and pursuant to that request a hearing was
conducted on July 13, 2016 (R.37-57). In a decision filed
September 8, 2016, an Administrative Law Judge denied
benefits (R.20-33). On September 21, 2016, the plaintiff
requested reconsideration of this determination (R.146), and
upon reconsideration, and in a decision dated September 25,
2017, the Appeals Council affirmed the prior decision
(R.1-8). The instant complaint was filed on November 27,
reviewing an administrative determination of the
Commissioner, the question before any court is whether there
is substantial evidence in the agency record to support the
findings of the Commissioner that the plaintiff failed to
sustain his/her burden of demonstrating that he/she was
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act.
provided in 42 U.S.C. Section 405(g) that:
The court shall have power to enter, upon the pleadings and
transcript of the record, a judgment affirming, modifying, or
reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social
Security, with or without remanding the cause for a
rehearing. The findings of the Commissioner of Social
Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive....
evidence is more than a mere scintilla. It means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion. Johnson v.
Comm'r. 529 F.3d 198 (3d Cir.2008) and the court may
not set aside a decision supported by substantial evidence.
Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358 (3d Cir.1999)
before the Court for resolution is a determination of whether
or not there is substantial evidence to support the findings
of the Commissioner that the plaintiff is not disabled within
the meaning of the Act.
hearing held on July 13, 2016(R.37-57), the plaintiff
appeared with counsel (R.39), and testified that she was 51
years old (R.40); that she worked for the same company for 15
years (R.44); that she frequently had to take off from work
due to mental illness (R.45) and that she last worked in June
2011 (R.41, 45).
plaintiff also testified that she is unable to leave her
home, fears being around people and experiences anxiety
(R.42, 46, 49); that she has suffered from depression since
she was a child (R.47); that she spends most of her day in
bed (R.44); that she sees her psychiatrist on a regular basis
(R.42); that she was off her medication for a six-week period
while an attempt was made to switch her medications, but she
was not non-compliant (R.43); that she denies having an
alcohol problem (R.44) and that with her medications she
experiences mood swings several times a week (R.47-48).
hearing a vocational expert was called upon to testify
(R.53-56). He described the plaintiff's former work as
that of a customer service representative which is a skilled
sedentary position (R.53). When asked to assume an individual
of the plaintiff's age, education and work experience who
could perform at all exertional levels but was limited to
routine/repetitive tasks in a stable work environment with
any interaction with the general public, the witness
testified that such an individual could not perform the
plaintiff's prior work (R.53-54) but that there were
other jobs such an individual could perform (R.54). When
asked to also consider if that individual was unable to work
with people, and responded that it would be difficult to find
an occupation anyone could perform which did not involve
interaction with co-workers (R.54-55). When asked whether
such an individual would be employable if he/she had to be
off work a third of the day, the expert testified that such
an individual would not be employable (R.55). The witness
concluded that “an individual that's unable to
maintain attention, and concentration, their productivity
would drop, so it's very similar to like the off-task
behavior. It doesn't matter why, but if you're off
task for more than 15% of the time, you're going to lose
your job.” (R.56).
issue before the Court is whether or not the decision of the
Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence.
term "disability" is defined in 42 U.S.C. Section
inability to engage in 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....
purposes of the foregoing, the requirements for a disability
determination are ...