United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
Donetta W. Ambrose, United States Senior District Judge.
before the Court are Cross Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF
Nos. 12 and 15). Both parties have filed Briefs in Support of
their Motions. (ECF Nos. 13 and 16). After careful
consideration of the submissions of the parties, and based on
my Opinion set forth below, I am denying Plaintiff's
Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 12) and granting
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 15).
brought this action for review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying an application for
supplemental security income pursuant to the Social Security
Act. The application was filed on behalf of Plaintiff, who
was at that time under the age of 18. On March 7, 2017,
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), Jeffrey P. La
Vicka, held a hearing. (ECF No. 10-4, pp. 2-49). On April 18,
2017, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled under the
Act prior to March 2, 2017, the date he attained age 18 or
thereafter. (ECF No. 10-3).
exhausting all administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed an
action in this court. The parties have filed Cross-Motions
for Summary Judgment. (ECF Nos. 12 and 15). The issues are
now ripe for review.
Standard of Review
standard of review in social security cases is whether
substantial evidence exists in the record to support the
Commissioner's decision. Allen v. Bowen, 881
F.2d 37, 39 (3d Cir. 1989). Substantial evidence has been
defined as “more than a mere scintilla. It means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate.” Ventura v. Shalala, 55 F.3d 900,
901 (3d Cir. 1995), quoting Richardson v. Perales,
402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971). Additionally, the
Commissioner's findings of fact, if supported by
substantial evidence, are conclusive. 42 U.S.C. §405(g);
Dobrowolsky v. Califano, 606 F.2d 403, 406 (3d Cir.
1979). A district court cannot conduct a de novo
review of the Commissioner's decision or re-weigh the
evidence of record. Monsour Medical Center v.
Heckler, 806 F.2d 1185, 1190-91 (3d Cir. 1986);
Palmer v. Apfel, 995 F.Supp. 549, 552 (E.D. Pa. 1998).
Where the ALJ's findings of fact are supported by
substantial evidence, a court is bound by those findings,
even if the court would have decided the factual inquiry
differently. Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 360
(3d Cir. 1999). To determine whether a finding is supported
by substantial evidence, however, the district court must
review the record as a whole. See, 5 U.S.C.
Social Security Act provides that a child under 18 is
“disabled” for purposes of SSI eligibility if he
or she “has a medically determinable physical or mental
impairment, which results in marked and severe functional
limitations, and 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.
§1382c(a)(3)(C)(i). The Commissioner follows a
three-step sequential process in determining childhood
disability: (1) whether the child is doing substantial
gainful activity; (2) if not, whether he or she has a
medically determinable severe impairment; (3) if so, whether
the child's severe impairment meets, medically equals, or
functionally equals the severity of a set of criteria for an
impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. §416.924. An impairment
functionally equals a listed impairment if the child has
“marked” limitations in two domains of
functioning or an “extreme”
limitation in one domain. 20 C.F.R. §416.926(a).
The six domains are: acquiring and using information;
attending and completing tasks; interacting and relating with
others; moving about and manipulating objects; caring for
yourself; and health and physical well-being. 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.926a(b)(1)(i)-(iv). When evaluating the ability to
function in each domain, the ALJ considers information that
will help answer the following questions “about whether
your impairment(s) affect your functioning and whether your
activities are typical of other children your age who do not
have impairments”: What activities are you able to
perform; What activities are you not able to perform; Which
of your activities are limited or restricted compared to
other children your age who do not have impairments; Where do
you have difficulty with your activities - at home, in
childcare, at school, or in the community; Do you have
difficulty independently initiating, sustaining, or
completing activities; and What kind of help do you need to
do your activities, how much help do you need, and how often
do you need it. 20 C.F.R. § 416.926a(b)(2)(i)-(vi).
case, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled prior to
March 2, 2017, the date he attained age 18. (ECF No. 10-3, p.
eligible for social security benefits after attaining the age
of 18, the plaintiff 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 12
months. 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(1)(A); Brewster v.
Heckler, 786 F.2d 581, 583 (3d Cir. 1986).
instances, the Commissioner has provided the ALJ with a
five-step sequential analysis to use when evaluating the
disabled status of each claimant. 20 C.F.R.
§404.1520(a). The ALJ must determine: (1) whether the
claimant is currently engaged in substantial gainful
activity; (2) if not, whether the claimant has a severe
impairment; (3) if the claimant has a severe impairment,
whether it meets or equals the criteria listed in 20 C.F.R.,
pt. 404, subpt. P., appx. 1; (4) if the impairment does not
satisfy one of the impairment listings, whether the
claimant's impairments prevent him from performing his
past relevant work; and (5) if the claimant is incapable of
performing his past relevant work, whether he can perform any
other work which exists in the national economy, in light of
his age, education, work experience and residual functional
capacity. 20 C.F.R. §404.1520. The claimant carries the
initial burden of demonstrating by medical evidence that he
is unable to return to his previous employment (steps 1-4).
Dobrowolsky, 606 F.2d at 406. Once the claimant
meets this burden, the burden of proof shifts to the
Commissioner to show that the claimant can engage in
alternative substantial gainful activity (step 5).
case, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled after
attaining the age of 18. (ECF No. 10-3, p. 30).
Assessment of ...