United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
the Court are the Objections of Plaintiff Terri Ann Chandler
to the Report and Recommendation (“R&R”) of
United States Magistrate Judge Lynne A. Sitarski. (Doc. No.
14.) On August 17, 2016, Plaintiff filed a Complaint against
Defendant Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
alleging that Defendant wrongfully denied Plaintiff
disability insurance benefits (DIB) under Title II of the
Social Security Act (“Act”), 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434. (Doc. No. 1.) On January 1, 2017, the
Court referred the case to Magistrate Judge Sitarski for an
R&R. (Doc. No. 12.) On December 15, 2017, Magistrate
Judge Sitarski issued the R&R, recommending that
Plaintiff's request for review be denied. (Doc. No. 13.)
On December 18, 2017, Plaintiff timely filed Objections.
(Doc. No. 14.) Defendant did not file a Response to
Plaintiff's Objections. The Objections are now ripe for a
to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1), the Court has conducted a
de novo review of the portions of the R&R to
which objections have been made. After independently
reviewing the Administrative Record (“Record”)
and for reasons that follow, the Court will approve and adopt
the R&R (Doc. No. 13) in its entirety.
Factual and Procedural Background
September 4, 2012, Plaintiff protectively filed for DIB,
claiming disability as of June 12, 2012 due to severe
migraines; depression; back, leg and neck pain; vertigo;
blurred vision; lack of mobility on the right side; and
numbness in the right hand and legs. (R. at 19, 169-70, 181.)
On March 6, 2013, her claim was denied. (R. at 117-21.) On
April 10, 2013, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). (R. at 124.) The hearing
occurred on November 17, 2014. (R. at 34-92.) Plaintiff,
represented by counsel, appeared and testified at the
hearing, as did an impartial vocational expert (VE).
(Id.) On January 27, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision
unfavorable to Plaintiff. (R. at 19-29.) Plaintiff filed a
request for review with the Appeals Council on March 10,
2015. (R. at 15.) The Council denied Plaintiff's request
on June 13, 2016, rendering the ALJ's decision the final
decision of the Commissioner. (R. at 2-7.)
Relevant Social Security Administration Regulations
prove a “disability, ” a claimant must
demonstrate “the inability to do 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.” 20
C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). The claimant has the burden of
proving the existence of a disability and can satisfy this
burden by showing an inability to return to former work.
Rossi v. Califano, 602 F.2d 55, 57 (3d Cir. 1979).
If she does so, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show
that, given the claimant's age, education and work
experience, she is able to perform specific jobs that exist
in the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A); 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(f).
evaluating a disability, the Social Security Administration
uses a five-step process, which is followed in a set order:
(i) At the first step, we consider your work activity, if
any. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will
find that you are not disabled.
(ii) At the second step, we consider the medical severity of
your impairment(s). If you do not have a severe medically
determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the
duration requirement in § 404.1509, or a combination of
impairments that is severe and meets the duration
requirement, we will find that you are not disabled.
(iii) At the third step, we also consider the medical
severity of your impairment(s). If you have an impairment(s)
that meets or equals one of our listings in appendix 1 of
this subpart and meets the duration requirement, we will find
that you are disabled.
(iv) At the fourth step, we consider our assessment of your
residual functional capacity and your past relevant work. If
you can still do your past relevant work, we will find that
you are not disabled.
(v) At the fifth and last step, we consider our assessment of
your residual functional capacity and your age, education,
and work experience to see if you can make an adjustment to
other work. If you can make an adjustment to other work, we
will find that you are not disabled. If you cannot make an
adjustment to other work, we will find that you are disabled.
the third and fourth steps, the Social Security
Administration assesses a claimant's residual functional
capacity, which is “the most [a claimant] can do
despite [her] limitations.” § 404.1545(a)(1). The
Social Security Administration uses the residual functional
capacity (RFC) assessment at Step Four to determine if the
claimant is able to do her “past relevant work.”
§ 404.1545(a)(5)(i). “Past relevant work” is
“work that you have done within ...