United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
MALACHY E. MANNION UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
above-captioned action is one seeking review of the decision
of the Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”), denying plaintiff Jerry
Spoljaric's application for Social Security Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§401-433. The court
has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g).
Currently before the court is plaintiff's appeal of the
decision, (Doc. 1), which has been briefed by the parties.
For the reasons set forth below, plaintiff's appeal will
be GRANTED and the Commissioner's
decision will be VACATED. The court will
REMAND this case to the Commissioner for
insurance benefits are paid to an individual if that
individual is disabled and “insured, ” that is,
the individual has worked long enough and paid social
security taxes. The last date that a claimant meets the
requirements of being insured is commonly referred to as the
“date last insured.” It is undisputed that
plaintiff meets the insured status requirements of the Social
Security Act through March 31, 2014. (Tr. 19). In order to
establish entitlement to disability insurance benefits,
plaintiff was required to establish that he suffered from a
disability on or before that date. 42 U.S.C.
§423(a)(1)(A), (c)(1)(B); 20 C.F.R. §404.131(a);
see Matullo v. Bowen, 926 F.2d 240, 244 (3d Cir.
was born May 25, 1966, and was 47 years old on the his date
of last insured. He was a younger individual when the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) rendered his
decision in this case. Plaintiff has a high school education.
His past relevant work was as a doorman. Plaintiff alleges
that on June 1, 2008, after a motor vehicle accident in April
2008, he became disabled and was unable to work. Thus, the
relevant time period is June 1, 2008 through March 31, 2014.
filed a claim for DIB on November 15, 2013. He alleged that
he was disabled due to severe back pain, left rotator cuff
problems, and herniated discs. The agency denied
plaintiff's application on January 29, 2014. Plaintiff
filed a request for a hearing before an ALJ, which was held
on June 4, 2015.
issued a decision on July 16, 2015. The ALJ found that
plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act from June 1, 2008, through the date of his
decision. Plaintiff filed a request for review.
December 13, 2016, the Appeals Council denied plaintiff's
request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. Since plaintiff exhausted his
administrative remedies, he initiated the present action on
February 9, 2017, appealing the final decision of the
Commissioner. (Doc. 1).
appeals the ALJ's determination on two grounds: 1.Whether
the ALJ erred in his Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”) assessment, i.e., substantial evidence
does not support the ALJ's RFC assessment, since he
afforded inadequate weight to the opinion of plaintiff's
treating physician, Dr. Poonia; and 2. Whether the ALJ erred
in his evaluation of Dr. Goldenberg's functional
assessment and whether the ALJ failed to properly explain his
reason for discounting it.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
reviewing the denial of disability benefits, the court must
determine whether the denial is supported by substantial
evidence. Brown v. Bowen, 845 F.2d 1211, 1213 (3d
Cir. 1988); Johnson v. Commissioner of Social Sec.,
529 F.3d 198, 200 (3d Cir. 2008). Substantial evidence
“does not mean a large or considerable amount of
evidence, but rather such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552 (1988);
Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 360. (3d Cir.
1999), Johnson, 529 F.3d at 200. It is less than a
preponderance of the evidence but more than a mere scintilla.
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).
receive disability benefits, the plaintiff must demonstrate
an “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.” 42 U.S.C.
[a]n individual shall be determined to be under a disability
only if his physical or mental impairment or impairments are
of such severity that he is not only unable to do his
previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and
work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial
gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless
of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work. For
purposes of the preceding sentence (with respect to any
individual), ‘work which exists in the national
economy' means work which exists in significant numbers
either in the region where such individual lives or in
several regions of the country.
42 U.S.C. §423(d)(2)(A).
DISABILITY EVALUATION PROCESS
plaintiff must establish that there is some “medically
determinable basis for an impairment that prevents him from
engaging in any substantial gainful activity for a statutory
twelve-month period.” Fargnoli v. Massanari,247 F.3d 34, 38-39 (3d Cir. 2001) (quoting Plummer v.
Apfel,186 F.3d 422, 427 (3d Cir. 1999) (internal
quotations omitted). “A claimant is considered unable
to engage in any substantial gainful activity ‘only if
his physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such
severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work
but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in ...