United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION
A. SITARSKI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Marie Metzger, (“Plaintiff”) filed this action to
review the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“Commissioner” or
“Defendant”), denying her application for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401-433
(“the Act”). This matter is before me for
disposition, upon consent of the parties. For the reasons
that follow, Plaintiff's request for review will be
protectively filed for DIB on March 27, 2015. (R. 12, 70).
She alleged disability as of October 1, 2013, due in relevant
part to diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol,
asthma, glaucoma, and degenerative disc disease of the lumbar
spine. (R. 70). The Social Security Administration denied her
claim for benefits at the initial level of review.
Id. Following the denial, Plaintiff requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), which occurred on September 13, 2017.
(R. 33-69). Plaintiff, represented by an attorney, appeared
and testified. Id. An impartial vocational expert
(“VE”) also testified at the hearing. (R. 52-67).
On October 31, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision denying
benefits under the Act. (R. 12-20). The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review, (R. 1-3), making
the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. Plaintiff commenced this action on January 18,
2019, and subsequently filed a Brief and Statement of Issues
in Support of Request for Review. (ECF No. 14). Defendant
filed a response, (ECF No. 15), and Plaintiff filed a reply
brief. (ECF No. 16). The matter is now ripe for disposition.
eligible for Social Security benefits under the Act, a
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 twelve
months. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A). A five-step
sequential analysis is used to evaluate a disability claim:
First, the Commissioner considers whether the claimant is
currently engaged in substantial gainful activity. If he is
not, then the Commissioner considers in the second step
whether the claimant has a “severe impairment”
that significantly limits his physical or mental ability to
perform basic work activities. If the claimant suffers a
severe impairment, the third inquiry is whether, based on the
medical evidence, the impairment meets the criteria of the
impairment listed in the “listing of impairments,
” . . . which result in a presumption of disability, or
whether the claimant retains the capacity to work. If the
impairment does not meet the criteria for a listed
impairment, then the Commissioner assesses in the fourth step
whether, despite the severe impairment, the claimant has the
residual functional capacity to perform his past work. 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.
Sykes v. Apfel, 228 F.3d 259, 262-63 (3d Cir. 2000);
see also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920.
The disability claimant bears the burden of establishing
steps one through four. If the claimant is determined to be
unable to resume previous employment, the burden shifts to
the Commissioner at step five to establish that, given the
claimant's age, education, work experience, and mental
and physical limitations, the claimant is able to perform
substantial gainful activities in jobs existing in the
national economy. Poulos v. Comm'r. of Soc.
Sec., 474 F.3d 88, 92 (3d Cir. 2007).
review of a final decision of the Commissioner is limited. A
district court is bound by the factual findings of the
Commissioner if they are supported by substantial evidence
and decided according to correct legal standards.
Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir.
1999). Substantial evidence is “more than a mere
scintilla, ” and “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate.” Burnett
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 220 F.3d 112, 118 (3d Cir.
2000) (citations omitted). Even if the record could support a
contrary conclusion, the decision of the ALJ will not be
overruled so long as there is substantial evidence to support
it. Simmonds v. Heckler, 807 F.2d 54, 58 (3d Cir.
1986). The court has plenary review of legal issues.
Schaudeck v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 181 F.3d 429,
431 (3d Cir. 1999).
Court has reviewed the administrative record in its entirety
and summarizes here the evidence relevant to the instant
request for review.
was fifty-one years old on her alleged disability onset date.
(R. 70). Plaintiff completed three years of college and
earned an associate degree. (R. 35). She previously worked as
an office clerk, receptionist, and data entry clerk. (R. 35,
54). At the time of the administrative hearing, Plaintiff
lived alone in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (R. 185).
administrative hearing, Plaintiff testified that she last
worked as a clerk in a bank. (R. 35). She reported that she
is unable to work due to her inability to sit or stand for
long periods, anxiety, and problems concentrating. (R.
the five-step inquiry described above, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff was not disabled. (R. 14-20).
1. At step one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff did not engage
in substantial gainful activity after her alleged onset of
disability. (R. 14).
2. At step two, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffers from the
following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of
the cervical and lumbar spines, right shoulder impingement,
coronary artery disease, and diabetic neuropathy of the upper
extremities. (R. 14).
3. At step three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's
impairments do not meet or medically equal the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, Subpt. P,
App. 1. (R. 16).
4. At step four, the ALJ found that Plaintiff has the
residual functional capacity to perform light work with the
following limitations: never climb ladders, ropes or
scaffolds; occasionally perform all other postural maneuvers;
and must avoid unprotected heights or hazards, environmental
irritants, dust, and fumes. She can occasionally reach
overhead and frequently handle, finger, and feel. (R. 17).
5. At step four, the ALJ found Plaintiff capable of
performing past relevant work as a data entry clerk. (R. 19).
the ALJ found Plaintiff was not disabled. (R. 20).
request for review, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by:
(1) failing to find Plaintiff's diabetes and depression
severe impairments; (2) failing to find Plaintiff's back
impairment met Listing 1.04; (3) according little weight to
the opinion of Meeta Peer, M.D.; and (4) improperly weighing
Plaintiff's subjective complaints. (Pl. Br. 8-14,
ECF No.14). The Commissioner counters that the ALJ properly
analyzed the medical opinion evidence, and that substantial
evidence supports the ALJ's decision. Having reviewed the
parties' submissions, the record -- including the medical
evidence and the hearing testimony -- and the ALJ's
decision, this Court concludes that remand is not warranted.
Plaintiff's Diabetes and ...