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Wood v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

July 29, 2019

SHARON WOOD, Plaintiff
v.
ANDREW SAUL, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration Defendant

          ORDER

          NITZA I. QUIÑONES ALEJANDRO, JUDGE

         AND NOW, this 29th day of July 2019, upon a careful review of the administrative record, [ECF 7], the Report and Recommendation (the “R&R”) issued on March 28, 2019, by the Honorable Carol Sandra Moore Wells, United States Magistrate Judge, [ECF 13], the objections to the R&R filed by Plaintiff Sharon Wood (“Plaintiff”), [ECF 14], and Defendant's response to Plaintiff's objections, [ECF 16], it is hereby ORDERED that:

         1. Plaintiff's objections are OVERRULED;

         2. The Report and Recommendation is APPROVED and ADOPTED;

         3. The decision of the Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration is AFFIRMED; and

         4. The Plaintiff's Request for Review be DENIED.[1]

---------

Notes:

[1] In the R&R, the Magistrate Judge recommended the denial of Plaintiff's request for review of an unfavorable decision rendered by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on her disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income (“SSI”) claims. Plaintiff filed timely objections. When considering objections to a magistrate judge's R&R, the court must undertake a de novo review of the portions of the R&R to which the plaintiff has objected. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Cont'l Cas. Co. v. Dominick D'Andrea, Inc., 150 F.3d 245, 250 (3d Cir. 1998). The court “may accept, reject or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1).

Judicial review of an ALJ's decision is, however, limited in scope. In reviewing a Commissioner's final determination that a person is not disabled and, therefore, not entitled to Social Security benefits, the court may not independently weigh the evidence or substitute its own conclusions for those reached by the ALJ. Chandler v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 667 F.3d 356, 359 (3d Cir. 2011); Burns v. Barnhart, 312 F.3d 113, 118 (3d Cir. 2002). Instead, the court must review the administrative factual findings in order to determine whether the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Rutherford v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546, 552 (3d Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence constitutes that which a “reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Rutherford, 399 F.3d at 552. “It is ‘more than a mere scintilla but may be somewhat less than a preponderance of the evidence.'” Id. (quoting Ginsburg v. Richardson, 436 F.2d 1146, 1148 (3d Cir. 1971)). If the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence, the court may not set it aside “even if [the Court] would have decided the factual inquiry differently.” Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir. 1999).

In analyzing a claimant's application for DIB and SSI, the ALJ applies a five-step sequential evaluation process to determine whether the individual is disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. If the ALJ determines that the plaintiff is not disabled at any step in the evaluation process, the analysis will not proceed to the next step. The five-step process is as follows:

1. If the claimant is not working and performing substantial gainful activity, the analysis proceeds to step two.
2. If the claimant is found to have severe physical or mental impairments, the analysis proceeds to step three.
3. If the claimant's impairment meets or equals a list of severe impairments laid out in 20 C.F.R. ยง 404.1520(d), the ...

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