United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
JOHN R. STOVER, Plaintiff,
ANDREW SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY PLAINTIFF'S
B. COHN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
matter is before the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge for a report and recommendation. John R. Stover
(“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of the
Commissioner of the Social Security Administration's
decision finding of not disabled. As set forth below, the
undersigned recommends to DENY
Plaintiff's appeal and AFFIRM the
Commissioner's decision in this case.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
receive disability or supplemental security benefits under
the Act, a claimant bears the burden to 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. §
423(d)(1)(A); accord 42 U.S.C. §
1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act further provides that an individual:
shall be determined to be under a disability only if his
physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such
severity that he is not only unable to do his previous work
but cannot, considering his age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy, regardless of
whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work.
42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B).
Plaintiff must demonstrate the physical or mental impairment
“by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques.” 42 U.S.C. §§
Security regulations implement a five-step sequential process
to evaluate a disability claim. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920; Rutherford v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d
546, 551 (3d Cir. 2005). The process requires an ALJ to
decide whether an applicant (1) is engaged in
“substantial gainful activity;” (2) suffers from
a “severe medically determinable physical or mental
impairment;” (3) suffers from “an impairment(s)
that meets or equals one” listed in the
regulation's appendix; (4) has a residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) allowing for performance of
“past relevant work;” and (5) can “make an
adjustment to other work.” Rutherford v.
Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546, 551; 20 C.F.R. §§
any of the steps a determination exists that a plaintiff is
or is not disabled, evaluation under a subsequent step is not
necessary. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). The claimant
bears the burden of proof at steps one through four. See
Rutherford v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546, 551 (3d Cir.
2005). If the claimant satisfies this burden, then the
Commissioner must show at step five that jobs exist in the
national economy that a person with the claimant's
abilities, age, education, and work experience can perform.
reviewing a decision of the Commissioner, the Court is
limited to determining whether the Commissioner has applied
the correct legal standards and whether the decision is
supported by substantial evidence. See e.g., 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) (“court shall review only the
question of conformity with such regulations and the validity
of such regulations”); Johnson v. Commissioner
of Social Sec., 529 F.3d 198, 200 (3d Cir. 2008);
Sanfilippo v. Barnhart, 325 F.3d 391, 393 (3d Cir.
2003) (plenary review of legal questions in social security
cases). 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
Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229
(1938)). The Court's review is based on the record, and
the Court will “meticulously examine the record as a
whole, including anything that may undercut or detract from
the [Administrative Law Judge's] findings in order to
determine if the substantiality test has been met.”
Id. Substantial evidence is a deferential standard
of review. See Jones v. Barnhart, 364 F.3d 501, 503
(3d Cir. 2004). 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 Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S.
197, 229 (1938)). Substantial evidence is “less than a
preponderance” and “more than a mere
scintilla.” Jesurum v. Sec'y of U.S. Dep't
of Health & Human Servs., 48 F.3d 114, 117 (3d Cir.
1995) (citing Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389,
Court may neither re-weigh the evidence nor substitute its
judgment for that of the fact-finder. Rutherford v.
Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546, 552 (3d Cir. 2005). The Court
will not set the Commissioner's decision aside if it is
supported by substantial evidence, even if the Court would
have decided the factual inquiry differently. Hartranft
v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir.1999) (citing 42
U.S.C. § 405(g)).
29, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for Title XVI
supplemental security income and Disability Insurance
Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Act, 42
U.S.C. §§ 401-433, 1382-1383, with a last insured
date of December 31, 2017,  and an amended alleged disability
onset date of July 23, 2013. (Tr. 10, 37). Plaintiff alleged
disability due to the following impairments: bipolar
disorder; borderline personality disorder; obesity; diabetes;
and neuropathy. (Tr. 86). On May 4, 2016, the ALJ found
Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act.
(Tr. 7-26). Plaintiff sought review of the decision, which
the Appeals Council denied on August 7, 2017, thereby
affirming the decision of the ALJ as the “final
decision” of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration. (Tr. 1-6).
October 6, 2017, Plaintiff filed the above-captioned action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to appeal a decision of
Defendant denying social security benefits. (Doc. 1). On
December 20, 2017, Defendant filed an answer and an
administrative transcript of proceedings. (Doc. 9, 10). On
February 5, 2018, Plaintiff filed a brief in support of the
appeal. (Doc.13 (“Pl. Br.”)). On February 26,
2018, Defendant filed a brief in response. (Doc. 14
(“Def. Br.”)). On March 23, 2018, Plaintiff filed
a reply. (Doc. 17 (Reply)).
appeal, Plaintiff alleges four errors: (1) the ALJ erred in
“finding the Plaintiff was able to do work at the light
exertional level despite giving partial weight to the
opinions of the Plaintiff's treating or examining
provides;” (2) the ALJ erred in “finding the
Plaintiff could have occasional contact with supervisors but
no contact with the public or coworkers;” (3) the ALJ
erred in “failing to find that the Plaintiff had any
deficits in maintaining attention, concentration and pace
despite giving significant weight to the opinions of the