United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
JARED E. BARNHART, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
E. SCHWAB CHIEF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
plaintiff, Jared E. Barnhart (“Mr. Barnhart”),
seeks judicial review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”)
denying his claim for Supplemental Security Income under
Title XVI of the Social Security Act. We have jurisdiction
under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).
matter has been referred to the undersigned United States
Chief Magistrate Judge to prepare a report and recommended
disposition pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and
Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b). Because the final decision of the
Commissioner is supported by substantial evidence, we
recommend that the Court affirm the decision of the
Commissioner denying Mr. Barnhart's claim.
Court refers to the administrative transcript provided by the
Commissioner. See Docs. 8-1 to
8-13. Prior to the instant case, Mr. Barnhart
filed a claim for supplemental security income on December
31, 2008, contending that the disability began on December
10, 2008. Admin. Tr. at 13. This claim was initially
denied on June 25, 2009, and Mr. Barnhart requested and
attended a hearing in 2011, after which an administrative law
judge entered an unfavorable decision on February 9, 2011.
Id. Mr. Barnhart did not pursue the application
Barnhart filed a second application for Supplemental Security
Income on September 29, 2014, contending that he became
disabled on July 25, 2012. Id. After the
Commissioner denied Mr. Barnhart's claim at the initial
level of administrative review on November 17, 2014, Mr.
Barnhart requested an administrative hearing on January 6,
2015. Id. On November 29, 2016, with the assistance
of counsel, Mr. Barnhart testified at a hearing before
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Timothy Wing.
Id. at 29-66. The ALJ determined that Mr. Barnhart
has not been disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act since September 29, 2014, the date of his
application, and so denied Mr. Barnhart's application for
benefits on March 7, 2017. Id. at 24. Mr. Barnhart
appealed the ALJ's decision to the Appeals Council, which
denied his request for review on May 15, 2018. Id.
at 1-3. This makes the ALJ's decision the final decision
of the Commissioner subject to judicial review by this Court.
18, 2018, Mr. Barnhart initiated this action by filing a
complaint claiming that the finding that he “was not
disabled . . . is not supported by substantial evidence and
[the Commissioner applied] an erroneous standard of
law.” Doc. 1 at 1. Mr. Barnhart requests that
the Court reverse the ALJ's decision and award him
benefits for Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of
the Social Security Act. Id. at 2. The Commissioner
filed an answer and a certified transcript of the
administrative proceedings. Docs. 7, 8. The
parties have filed briefs, and this matter is ready for
decision. Docs. 9, 12.
Substantial Evidence Review-the Role of This Court.
reviewing the Commissioner's final decision denying a
claimant's application for benefits, this Court's
review is limited to the question of whether substantial
evidence supports the findings of the final decision-maker.
See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3);
Johnson v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 529 F.3d 198,
200 (3d Cir. 2008); Ficca v. Astrue, 901 F.Supp.2d
533, 536 (M.D. Pa. 2012). 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, 565 (1988)
(quoting Consol. Edison Co. of New York v. N.L.R.B.,
305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). Substantial evidence is less than
a preponderance of the evidence but more than a mere
scintilla. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401
(1971). A single piece of evidence is not substantial
evidence if the ALJ ignores countervailing evidence or fails
to resolve a conflict created by the evidence. Mason v.
Shalala, 994 F.2d 1058, 1064 (3d Cir. 1993).
adequately developed factual record, substantial evidence may
be “something less than the weight of the evidence, and
the possibility of drawing two inconsistent conclusions from
the evidence does not prevent [the ALJ's] finding from
being supported by substantial evidence.” Consolo
v. Fed. Maritime Comm'n, 383 U.S. 607, 620 (1966).
“In determining if the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence the court must scrutinize
the record as a whole.” Leslie v. Barnhart,
304 F.Supp.2d 623, 627 (M.D. Pa. 2003). The question before
this Court, therefore, is not whether Mr. Barnhart is
disabled, but whether substantial evidence supports the
Commissioner's finding that he was not disabled and
whether the Commissioner correctly applied the relevant law.
See Arnold v. Colvin, No. 3:12-CV-02417, 2014 WL
940205, at *1 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 11, 2014) (“[I]t has been
held than an ALJ's errors of law denote a lack of
substantial evidence.”) (alterations omitted); see
also Wright v. Sullivan, 900 F.2d 675, 678 (3d Cir.
1990) (noting that the scope of review on legal matters is
Initial Burdens of Proof, Persuasion, and Articulation for
order to receive benefits under the Social Security Act by
reason of disability, a claimant 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. §
1382c(a)(3)(A); see also 20 C.F.R. §
416.905(a). To satisfy this requirement, a claimant must have
a severe physical or mental impairment that makes it
impossible to do his or ...