United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
ARBUCKLE MAGISTRATE JUDGE
M. MUNLEY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the court for disposition is Magistrate Judge William I.
Arbuckle's report and recommendation (hereinafter
“R&R”) which proposes affirming the decision
of the Commissioner of Social Security denying
plaintiff's claim for supplemental security income
(“SSI”) benefits under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act. (Doc. 13). Plaintiff's action is brought
under Sections 205(g), 42 U.S.C. § 405, and 1631(c)(3)
of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3). The
matter is fully briefed and ripe for disposition.
Jean Yvonne Miller began her quest for benefits under Titles
II and XVI of the Social Security Act on May 19, 2014, when
she filed applications for disability insurance benefits,
disabled widow's benefits, and supplemental security
income due to physical disabilities. (Doc. 19, R&R at 2).
Plaintiff alleges that her disability began on February 11,
2014, after she slipped and fell at a convenience store.
(Id.) At that time, the plaintiff was forty-eight
years old. (Id. at 3). After the Social Security
Administration (hereinafter “SSA”) denied
plaintiff's application on October 10, 2014, plaintiff,
through her counsel, requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (hereinafter “ALJ”).
hearing on June 6, 2016, Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Stephen Cordovani heard from both the
plaintiff and Adolph W. Cwik, an impartial vocational expert.
(Id. at 3-4). The ALJ ultimately found that
plaintiff was not disabled under the Social Security Act.
(Id. at 4). Plaintiff sought further review of her
claims by the Appeals Council of the Office of Disability
Adjudication and Review, but her request was denied on
December 27, 2016. (Id.) Thus, the ALJ's
decision is the final decision of the Commissioner.
initiated the instant action on August 15, 2017, asking us to
reverse the decision of the ALJ and award benefits, or remand
for a new hearing. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff seeks this reversal on
the grounds that the ALJ's decision to deny his claim for
benefits was not supported by substantial evidence and
contains errors of law.
Judge Arbuckle reviewed the record in this case and
recommends that the final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security denying plaintiff's benefits be affirmed.
(Doc. 19). The plaintiff filed objections to the magistrate
judge's R&R. (Doc. 22). On April 4, 2019, the
Commissioner filed a response. (Doc. 25). The plaintiff
replied on April 16, 2019, bringing the case to its present
posture. (Doc. 26).
court has federal question jurisdiction over this SSA appeal.
See 42 U.S.C. § 1383(c)(3) (“The final
determination of the Commissioner of Social Security after a
hearing under paragraph (1) shall be subject to judicial
review as provided in section 405(g) of this title to the
same extent as the Commissioner's final determinations
under section 405 of this title.”); see also
42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (“Any individual, after any
final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security made
after a hearing to which he was a party, irrespective of the
amount in controversy, may obtain a review of such decision
by a civil action commenced within sixty days after the
mailing to him of notice of such decision or within such
further time as the Commissioner of Social Security may
allow. Such action shall be brought in the district court of
the United States for the judicial district in which the
plaintiff resides, or has his principal place of
disposing of objections to a magistrate judge's R&R,
the district court must make a de novo determination
of those portions of the report against which objections are
made. 28 U.S.C.A. § 636(b)(1)(c); see also Sullivan
v. Cuyler, 723 F.2d 1077, 1085 (3d Cir. 1983). 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.A. § 636(b)(1)(c). The district court judge may
also receive further evidence or recommit the matter to the
magistrate judge with instructions. Id.
reviewing a Social Security appeal, the court must determine
whether “substantial evidence” supports the
ALJ's decision. See 42 U.S.C.A. § 405(g);
Hagans v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 694 F.3d 287, 292
(3d Cir. 2012); Plummer v. Apfel, 186 F.3d 422, 427
(3d Cir. 1999). “[S]ubstantial evidence has been
defined as ‘more than a mere scintilla.' ”
Hagans, 694 F.3d at 292 (quoting Plummer,
186 F.3d at 427). It means “such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Consolo v. Fed. Mar. Comm'n,
383 U.S. 607, 620 (1966).
court should not reverse the Commissioner's findings
merely because evidence may exist to support the opposite
conclusion. See 42 U.S.C. § 405(g);
Rutherford v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546, 552 (3d Cir.
2005) (stating that courts may not weigh the evidence or
substitute their own conclusions for those of the
fact-finder); Fargnoli v. Massanari, 247 F.3d 34, 38
(3d Cir. 2001) (indicating that when the ALJ's findings
of fact are supported by substantial evidence, courts are
bound by those findings, even if they would have decided the
factual inquiry differently). In an 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 an administrative agency's finding from being
supported by substantial evidence.” Consolo,
383 U.S. at 620.
evidence exists only “in relationship to all the other
evidence in the record, ” Cotter v. Harris,
642 F.2d 700, 706 (3d Cir. 1981), and “must take into
account whatever in the record fairly detracts from its
weight.” Universal Camera Corp. v. N.L.R.B.,
340 U.S. 474, 488 (1971). “When a conflict in the
evidence exists, the ALJ may choose whom to credit but
‘cannot reject evidence for no reason or for the wrong
reason.' ” Plummer, 186 F.3d at 429
(quoting Mason v. Shalala, 994 F.2d 1058, 1066 (3d
Cir. 1993)). The Commissioner must indicate which evidence
was accepted, which evidence was rejected, and the reasons
for rejecting certain ...