United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
N. Bloch, United States District Judge
NOW, this 14th day of August, 2019, upon consideration of the
parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, the Court,
upon review of the Commissioner of Social Security's
final decision denying Plaintiff's claim for disability
insurance benefits under Subchapter II of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq., and denying
Plaintiff's claim for supplemental security income
benefits under Subchapter XVI of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. § 1381 et seq., finds that the
Commissioner's findings are supported by substantial
evidence and, accordingly, affirms. See 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Jesurum v. Secretary of U.S. Department of
Health & Human Services, 48 F.3d 114, 117 (3d Cir.
1995); Williams v. Sullivan, 970 F.2d 1178, 1182 (3d
Cir. 1992), cert. denied sub nom., 507 U.S. 924
(1993); Brown v. Bowen, 845 F.2d 1211, 1213 (3d Cir.
1988). See also Berry v. Sullivan, 738 F.Supp. 942,
944 (W.D. Pa. 1990) (if supported by substantial evidence,
the Commissioner's decision must be affirmed, as a
federal court may neither reweigh the evidence, nor reverse,
merely because it would have decided the claim differently)
(citing Cotter v. Harris, 642 F.2d 700, 705 (3d Cir.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment (document No. 14) is DENIED and that Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment (document No. 16) is GRANTED.
 Plaintiff argues that the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred in not
finding her chronic low back pain caused by degenerative disc
disease to constitute a severe impairment at Step Two of the
sequential analysis. The Court finds no merit in
Plaintiff's contentions and finds that substantial
evidence supports the ALJ's decision.
The Court first notes that the ALJ extensively
discussed Plaintiff's lower back condition and that, at
least arguably, her decision that this condition did not meet
the relatively low standard of being a severe impairment has
sufficient record support. (R. 18-19). Regardless, the Step
Two determination as to whether a claimant is suffering from
a severe impairment is a threshold analysis requiring the
showing of only one severe impairment. See Bradley v.
Barnhart, 175 Fed.Appx. 87, 90 (7th Cir.
2006). In other words, as long as a claim is not denied at
Step Two, it is not generally necessary for the ALJ
specifically to have found any additional alleged impairment
to be severe. See Salles v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec.,
229 Fed.Appx. 140, 145 n.2 (3d Cir. 2007); Lee v.
Astrue, Civ. No. 06-5167, 2007 WL 1101281, at *3 n.5
(E.D. Pa. Apr. 12, 2007); Lyons v. Barnhart, Civ.
No. 05-104, 2006 WL 1073076, at *3 (W.D. Pa. March 27, 2006).
Since Plaintiff's claim was not denied at Step Two, it
does not matter whether the ALJ correctly or incorrectly
found Plaintiff's alleged back condition to be
Of course, even if an impairment is non-severe, it may
still affect a claimant's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”). In assessing a claimant's RFC, the
ALJ “must consider limitations and restrictions imposed
by all of an individual's impairments, even those that
are not ‘severe.'” SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184
(S.S.A.), at *5 (July 2, 1996). See also 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1545(a)(2), 416.945(a)(2). “While a
‘not severe' impairment(s) standing alone may not
significantly limit an individual's ability to do basic
work activities, it may - when considered with limitations or
restrictions due to other impairments - be critical to the
outcome of a claim.” SSR 96-8p at *5. Accordingly,
merely because the ALJ did not find Plaintiff's
impairments involving her lower back to be severe does not
mean that these impairments could not still have affected
Plaintiff's RFC. Here, however, the ALJ emphasized that
she was considering the combined effects of all
Plaintiff's impairments in determining the matter of
severity even if each alone was not severe (R. 17), and she
expressly took Plaintiff's lower back condition into
account when formulating the RFC. (R. 19). Indeed, the RFC
here was particularly restrictive, limiting Plaintiff to
sedentary work with numerous postural and other
non-exertional limitations. (R. 23-24). To the extent that
Plaintiff argues that the RFC was insufficient, or that the
ALJ erred in failing to incorporate the limitations to which
Dr. Brinda Navalgund opined, the Court finds that substantial
evidence supports the ALJ's findings. The ALJ explained
at great length why she gave Dr. Navalgund's opinion
little weight (R. 31-32), and her explanation has adequate
The issue is not whether Plaintiff did, in fact,
suffer from chronic low back pain, but whether that condition
“caused functional limitations that precluded [her]
from engaging in any substantial gainful activity.”
Walker v. Barnhart, 172 Fed.Appx. 423, 426 (3d Cir.
2006). The ALJ explained how she formulated Plaintiff's
RFC in significant detail, and the Court finds her
determination to be supported by ...