United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION AND ORDER OF COURT
DONETTA W. AMBROSE UNITED STATES SENIOR DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court are Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF
Nos. 9 and 12). Both parties have filed Briefs in Support of
their Motions. (ECF Nos. 10 and 13). 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. 9) and granting
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 12).
brought this action for review of the final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security denying her application for
disability insurance benefits pursuant to the Social Security
Act. Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”), John J.
Porter, held a hearing on April 24, 2017. (ECF No. 7-3). On
July 25, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff is
not disabled. (ECF No. 7-2, pp. 16-29). After exhausting all
administrative remedies, Plaintiff filed this action.
parties have filed Cross-Motions for Summary Judgment. (ECF
Nos. 9 and 12). 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. 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
eligible for social security benefits, 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.
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).
district court, after reviewing the entire record may affirm,
modify, or reverse the decision with or without remand to the
Commissioner for rehearing. Podedworny v. Harris,
745 F.2d 210, 221 (3d Cir. 1984).
argues that the ALJ erred in failing “to give any
consideration to the Plaintiff's severe obesity, alone or
in combination with her other impairments.” (ECF No.
10, p. 12). As a result, the Plaintiff essentially argues
that there is insufficient discussion for this court to make
a meaningful review and the case should be remanded. (ECF No.
10, pp. 12-14).
must determine whether the claimant has a medically
determinable impairment that is severe or a combination of
impairments that is severe. 20 C.F.R. §404.1520(a). A
severe impairment is one which significantly limits your
physical or mental ability to do basic work activities.
Id. Thus, an impairment is not severe if it is a
slight abnormality or a combination of slight abnormalities
that causes no more than minimal functional limitations. 20
C.F.R. §416.920(c). In this case, the ALJ found
Plaintiff to have the following severe impairments at step
two: arthritis, aortic stenosis, ...