United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM 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
defendant's motion (ECF No. 13) will be granted, the
plaintiff's motion (ECF No. 10) will be denied, and the
decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed.
January 8, 2018, Rosemary P. by her counsel, filed a
complaint pursuant to Section 205(g) of the Social Security
Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §405(g) for review of the
Commissioner's final determination disallowing her claim
for a period of disability or for disability insurance
benefits under Sections 216(i) and 223 of the Social Security
Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§416(i) and 423.
September 27, 2014 the plaintiff filed an application for
disability benefits alleging that she had been disabled since
August 12, 2014 (R.142-143) and benefits were denied on
January 15, 2015 (R.85-89). On January 28, 2015, the
plaintiff requested a hearing (R.90-91) and pursuant to that
request a hearing was held on December 1, 2016 (R.32-67). In
a decision dated May 9, 2017, benefits were denied (R.12-27)
and on May 12, 2017, reconsideration was requested
(R.139-140). Upon reconsideration and in a decision dated
November 24, 2017, the Appeals Council affirmed the prior
determination (R.1-3). On January 8, 2018, the instant
complaint was filed.
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 burden of demonstrating that he 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
hearing held on December 1, 2016, (R.32-67), the plaintiff
appeared with counsel (R.34) and testified that she was
fifty-four years old (R. 34), that she worked for twenty-five
years as a dental assistant but the job became too strenuous
(R.38-39) and that she last worked in November 2015 as a shoe
addition, the plaintiff testified that she has fibromyalgia
(R.40); that she experiences chronic pain all over her body
(R.41); that she has very poor memory or concentration
ability and forgets what she is doing (R.42, 54, 56); that
she sustained whiplash in a car accident (R.45); that she
suffers from depression and does nothing for about a week
every three or four months (R.47), and that she experiences
irritable bowel syndrome (R.51). The plaintiff also testified
that she receives some relief from Oxycontin (R.41); that she
is receiving mental health care (R.43); that she can stand or
walk for less than an hour (R.43-44); that she cannot carry
anything heavy (R.44); that she sometimes walks with a cane
(R.46), and that she uses a TENS unit once or twice a week
hearing a vocational expert was also called upon to testify
(R.60-65). The witness classified the plaintiff's prior
work as unskilled to skilled light work (R.60). When asked to
assume an individual of the plaintiff's age, education
and work history who was limited to performing light work who
must work in a static, low stress environment that involves
only simple decisions, he testified that the such a person
could not perform the plaintiff's past work but that
there were a large number of other jobs such an individual
could perform (R.60-61, 64). However, if the individual had
to be reinstructed for every shift, he testified that such an
individual could not be employed (R.63).
issue before the Court for immediate resolution is a
determination of whether or not there is substantial evidence
to support the findings of the Commissioner that the
plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act.
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 provided in 42 U.S.C. Section 423(d)(2)(A):
An 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 ... "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.
"physical or mental impairment" is "an
impairment that results from anatomical, physiological, or
psychological abnormalities which are demonstrable by
medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic
techniques." 42 U.S.C. Section 423(d)(3). These
provisions are also applied for purposes of establishing a
period of disability. 42 U.S.C. Section 416(i)(2)(A).
these statutory provisions have been regarded as "very
harsh," nevertheless, they must be followed by the
courts. NLRB v. Staiman Brothers, 466 F.2d 564 (3d
Cir. 1972); Choratch v. Finch, 438 F.2d 342 (3d Cir.
1971); Woods v. Finch, 428 F.2d 469 (3d Cir. 1970).
Thus, it must be determined whether or not there is
substantial evidence in the record to support the conclusion
of the Commissioner that the plaintiff was not disabled
within the meaning of the Social Security Act.
this purpose, certain medical evidence was reviewed.
report of an eye examination conducted on November 1, 2013,
no impairments were noted although ...