United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
J. RUETER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
States Magistrate Judge August 27, 2019 Plaintiff, Allen
Gorham Jackson, filed this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g), seeking judicial review of the final decision
of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“Commissioner”) denying his claim for disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the
Social Security Act (“Act”).
filed a Brief and Statement of Issues in Support of Request
for Review (“Pl.'s Br.”) and defendant filed
a Response to Plaintiff's Request for Review
(“Def.'s Br.”). For the reasons set forth
below, plaintiff's Request for Review will be granted.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
filed an application for DIB on August 8, 2017, alleging
disability beginning April 1, 2017. (R. 139-42.)
Plaintiff's claim was denied initially and he filed a
timely request for a hearing. (R. 83-106.) A hearing was held
on April 17, 2018, before Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Vivian McAneney. (R. 36-82.) Plaintiff,
acting pro se, appeared and testified. Vanessa
Ennis, a vocational expert (“VE”), also appeared
and testified. In a decision dated May 11, 2018, the ALJ
found that plaintiff was not disabled under the Act. (R.
16-35.) The ALJ made the following findings:
1. The claimant last met the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act on December 31, 2017.
2. The claimant did not engage in substantial gainful
activity during the period from his alleged onset date of
April 1, 2017 through his date last insured of December 31,
2017 (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq.).
3. Through the date last insured, the claimant had the
following severe impairments: cervical degenerative disc
disease (DDD), right ulnar neuropathy, mild right carpal
tunnel syndrome (CTS), and Parsonage-Turner syndrome
(brachial myotrophy) (20 CFR 404.1520(c)).
4. Through the date last insured, the claimant did not have
an impairment or combination of impairments that met or
medically equaled the severity of one of the listed
impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (20 CFR
404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526).
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b) which involves frequent gross handling and
fine motor manipulation with right (dominant) hand; no more
than occasional overhead reaching or crawling; and no
climbing of ladders/ropes/scaffolds.
6. Through the date last insured, the claimant was capable of
performing past relevant work as an accounting clerk. This
work did not require the performance of work-related
activities precluded by the claimant's residual
functional capacity (20 CFR 404.1565).
7. The claimant was not under a disability, as defined in the
Social Security Act, at any time from April 1, 2017, the
alleged onset date, through December 31, 2017, the date last
insured (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(f)).
filed a request for review of the decision of the ALJ that
was denied and the ALJ's decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner. (R. 1-5, 137-38.) Plaintiff
then filed the present claim, seeking judicial review of the
ALJ's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
role of this court on judicial review is to determine whether
there is substantial evidence in the record to support the
Commissioner's decision. Hagans v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 694 F.3d 287, 292 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g)), cert. denied, 571 U.S. 1204 (2014);
Plummer v. Apfel, 186 F.3d 422, 427 (3d Cir. 1999).
Substantial evidence is defined as “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Biestek v. Berryhill,
139 S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019) (quoting Consol. Edison Co.
v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). Substantial evidence
is more than a mere scintilla of evidence, but may be less
than a preponderance of the evidence. Jesurum v.
Sec'y of U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Serv.,
48 F.3d 114, 117 (3d Cir. 1995). This court may not weigh
evidence or substitute its conclusions for those of the
fact-finder. Burns v. Barnhart, 312 F.3d 113, 118
(3d Cir. 2002) (citing Williams v. Sullivan, 970
F.2d 1178, 1182 (3d Cir. 1992)). As the Third Circuit has
stated, “so long as an agency's fact-finding is
supported by substantial evidence, reviewing courts lack
power to reverse . . . those findings.” Monsour
Med. Ctr. v. Heckler, 806 F.2d 1185, 1191 (3d Cir.
eligible for benefits, the claimant must 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). Specifically, the impairments must be such that
the claimant “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.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(2)(A). Under the Act, the claimant has the
burden of proving the existence of a disability and must
furnish medical evidence indicating the severity of the
impairment. 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(5).
Social Security Administration employs a five-part procedure
to determine whether an individual has met this burden. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520. This process requires the Commissioner
to consider, in sequence, whether a claimant: (1) is
currently employed; (2) has a severe impairment; (3) has an
impairment which meets or equals the requirements of a listed
impairment; (4) can perform past relevant work; and (5) if
not, whether the claimant is able to perform other work, in
view of his age, education, and work experience. See
id. The claimant bears the burden of establishing steps
one through four of the five-step evaluation process, while
the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five to show
that the claimant is capable of performing other jobs
existing in large numbers in the national economy. Poulos
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 474 F.3d 88, 92 (3d Cir.
appeared at the April 17, 2018, administrative hearing
without the assistance of counsel. See R. 40-41.
Plaintiff was advised by the ALJ of his right to have a
representative present at the hearing; plaintiff declined the
ALJ's offer to postpone the hearing and elected to
proceed without a representative. (R. 41.)
testified that he is married and lives with his wife. (R.
63-64.) He confirmed that he last worked in January 2013. (R.
48.) From 2006 to 2013, plaintiff worked for the Defense
Finance and Accounting Services. (R. 49-50.) Plaintiff was a
member of the Army Reserves, but was activated for duty. (R.
50.) Plaintiff stated that while in the Reserves, he was
assigned as an instructor to basic training soldiers. (R.
56.) While on active duty in Afghanistan, plaintiff commanded
a police academy. Id. Prior to his time in the Army,
plaintiff worked as an accounting clerk for National
Education Loan Network from approximately 2003 to 2006. (R.
testified that he began experiencing problems with his neck
when he returned from active duty in 2012. (R. 53.) Plaintiff
noted that his condition had deteriorated since 2012, such
that in June 2017, he had a foraminotomy and a
hemilaminectomy at four levels in his spine. (R. 54.) After
the surgery, plaintiff began physical therapy in August 2017.
(R. 55.) Plaintiff estimated that by December 2017, he had
attained “physical therapy progress back to a hundred
percent of where I was, . . . before my surgery, not from
where I was during my service in the Army, and I've been
told by a team of doctors that I will never be back to that
strength level.” Id. Plaintiff explained that
his strength is “about a third” ...