United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION AND ORDER
Donetta W. Ambrose United States Senior District Judge
Carl Ellsworth Olson (“Olson”) brings this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for review of the
ALJ's decision denying his claim for disability insurance
benefits (“DIB”). He alleges a disability beginning
on March 15, 2013. (R. 14). Following a hearing before an
ALJ, during which time both Olson and a vocational expert
(“VE”) testified, the ALJ denied his claim. Olson
appealed. Pending are Cross Motions for Summary Judgment.
See ECF docket nos.  and .
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). Determining whether substantial evidence exists is
“not merely a quantitative exercise.”
Gilliland v. Heckler, 786 F.2d 178, 183 (3d Cir.
1986) (citing Kent v. Schweiker, 710 F.2d 110, 114
(3d Cir. 1983)). “A single piece of evidence will not
satisfy the substantiality test if the secretary ignores, or
fails to resolve, a conflict created by countervailing
evidence. Nor is evidence substantial if it is overwhelmed by
other evidence - particularly certain types of evidence
(e.g., that offered by treating physicians).”
Id. 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 U.S.C.
eligible for social security benefits, the claimant 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.
1986). The 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).
Id. A 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.
one, the ALJ found that Olson had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since March 15, 2013, the alleged onset
date. (R. 16) At step two, the ALJ concluded that Olson has
the following severe impairments: status post kyphoplasty
T7-T9, diabetes mellitus, and osteoporosis. (R. 16-17)
three, the ALJ concluded that Olson does not have an
impairment or combination of impairments that meets or
medically equals the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpt. P, Appendix 1. The
ALJ considered Listing 1.04 “and concluded that the
claimant's impairments, either single or in combination,
do not satisfy the clinical criteria of any of these or other
listings….” (R. 17)
to engaging in step four, the ALJ assessed Olson's
residual functional capacity
(“RFC”). The ALJ found Olson able to perform light
work with certain limitations. (R. 17-20)
four, the ALJ determined that Olson is unable to perform any
of his past relevant work. His past relevant work requires a
range of medium strength to heavy strength to perform
unskilled work to semi-skilled tasks. (R. 20) The demands of
such past work exceed Olson's current RFC.
fifth step of the analysis, the ALJ concluded that,
considering Olson's age, education, work experience, and
RFC, there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy that he can perform. (R. 20) For example,
Olson would be able to perform the requirements of
representative occupations such as courier / messenger and
mail room clerk. (R. 21) Consequently, the ALJ concluded that
Olson has not been ...