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Williams v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

June 26, 2019

RONALD HERMAN WILLIAMS
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security [1]

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ELIZABETH T. HEY, U.S.M.J.

         Ronald Herman Williams (“Plaintiff”) seeks review, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of the Commissioner's decision denying his claims for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income (“SSI”). For the reasons that follow, I conclude that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) denying benefits is supported by substantial evidence and will affirm the Commissioner's decision.

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff was born on April 21, 1954, see tr. at 204, 208, has completed high school, and has past work experience as an airport utility worker, housekeeping supervisor, cleaner, and airline security representative. Id. at 69-75, 89, 240. He filed for DIB and SSI, respectively, on May 13 and September 5, 2014, claiming disability as of October 28, 2011, due to major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety, and numbness in his fingers and lips. Id. at 117, 118, 204, 208, 239. The applications were denied initially, id. at 119-23, 124-27, and Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing before an ALJ, id. at 131-32, which took place on March 13, 2017. Id. at 64-92. On May 8, 2017, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled. Id. at 41-52. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on November 24, 2017, id. at 1-3, making the ALJ's May 8, 2017 decision the final decision of the Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1472. Plaintiff commenced this action in federal court on January 12, 2018. Doc. 1. In accordance with 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), the parties voluntarily consented to magistrate judge jurisdiction and the Honorable Paul S. Diamond, to whom the case was assigned, referred the case to me for all further proceedings. Docs. 17 & 18.

         II. LEGAL STANDARD

         To prove 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 has lasted or can be expected to last for . . . not less than twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1). The Commissioner employs a five-step process, evaluating:

1. Whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantially gainful activity;
2. If not, whether the claimant has a “severe impairment” that significantly limits his physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities;
3. If so, whether based on the medical evidence, the impairment meets or equals the criteria of an impairment listed in the “listing of impairments, ” 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1, which results in a presumption of disability;
4. If the impairment does not meet or equal the criteria for a listed impairment, whether, despite the severe impairment, the claimant has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform his past work; and
5. If the claimant cannot perform his past work, then the final step is to determine whether there is other work in the national economy that the claimant can perform.

See Zirnsak v. Colvin, 777 F.2d 607, 610 (3d Cir. 2014); see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). Plaintiff bears the burden of proof at steps one through four, while the burden shifts to the Commissioner at the fifth step to establish that the claimant is capable of performing other jobs in the local and national economies, in light of his age, education, work experience, and RFC. See Poulos v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 474 F.3d 88, 92 (3d Cir. 2007).

         The court's role on judicial review is to determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Schaudeck v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 181 F.3d 429, 431 (3d Cir. 1999). Therefore, the issue in this case is whether there is substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's conclusions that Plaintiff is not disabled and is capable of performing jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. Substantial evidence is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion, ” and must be “more than a mere scintilla.” Zirnsak, 777 F.2d at 610 (quoting Rutherford v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546, 552 (3d Cir. 2005)). The court has plenary review of legal issues. Schaudeck, 181 F.3d at 431.

         III. ...


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