United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
ABIGAIL L. WERNER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,  COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.
AMBROSE, SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE
before the court are Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF
Nos. 6 and 10). Both parties have filed Briefs in Support of
their Motions. (ECF Nos. 7 and 11). 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. 6) and denying
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 10).
brought this action for review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying her application for
supplemental security income pursuant to the Social Security
Act. Plaintiff filed her application alleging she had been
disabled since January 1, 1997. (ECF No. 4-6, p. 2).
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), Leslie
Perry-Dowdell, held a hearing on February18, 2016. (ECF No.
4-3). On May 5, 2016, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not
disabled under the Act. (ECF No. 4-2, pp. 12-22).
exhausting all administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed the
instant action with this court. The parties have filed
Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF Nos. 6 and 10). 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).
Weighing Opinion Evidence as it relates to the Residual
with Plaintiff's last argument first, as I believe it is
a threshold argument. (ECF No. 7, pp. 16-18). To that end,
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ gave significant weight to the
opinion of Dr. Martin, but did not include all of the
limitations set forth by Dr. Martin in the RFC. Id.
Dr. Martin evaluated Plaintiff on November 22, 2013. (ECF No.
4-14, pp. 18-25). The ALJ summarized Dr. Martin's opinion
Dr. Nickolas Martin found that the intellectual testing
revealed that the claimant is “most appropriate for
vocational training/employment related experiences of an
elementary level of difficulty” (Exhibit 7F/8). This
opinion supports the finding that the claimant is capable of
performing some unskilled work. It is supported by the
testing and by the claimant's ...