United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION TO DENY PLAINTIFF'S
B. COHN UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
matter is before the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge for a report and recommendation. Amanda Caroline
Corbett (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration's
decision finding of not disabled. As set forth below, the
undersigned recommends to DENY
Plaintiff's appeal and AFFIRM the
Commissioner's decision in this case.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
receive disability or supplemental security benefits under
the Act, a claimant bears the burden to 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); accord 42 U.S.C. §
1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act further provides that an individual:
shall be determined to be under a disability only if his
physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such
severity that he 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, regardless of
whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work.
42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B).
Plaintiff must demonstrate the physical or mental impairment
“by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory
diagnostic techniques.” 42 U.S.C. §§
Security regulations implement a five-step sequential process
to evaluate a disability claim. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920; Rutherford v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d
546, 551 (3d Cir. 2005). The process requires an ALJ to
decide whether an applicant (1) is engaged in
“substantial gainful activity;” (2) suffers from
a “severe medically determinable physical or mental
impairment;” (3) suffers from “an impairment(s)
that meets or equals one” listed in the
regulation's appendix; (4) has a residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) allowing for performance of
“past relevant work;” and (5) can “make an
adjustment to other work.” Rutherford v.
Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546, 551; 20 C.F.R. §§
any of the steps a determination exists that a plaintiff is
or is not disabled, evaluation under a subsequent step is not
necessary. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). The claimant
bears the burden of proof at steps one through four. See
Rutherford v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546, 551 (3d Cir.
2005). If the claimant satisfies this burden, then the
Commissioner must show at step five that jobs exist in the
national economy that a person with the claimant's
abilities, age, education, and work experience can perform.
reviewing a decision of the Commissioner, the Court is
limited to determining whether the Commissioner has applied
the correct legal standards and whether the decision is
supported by substantial evidence. See e.g., 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) (“court shall review only the
question of conformity with such regulations and the validity
of such regulations”); Johnson v. Commissioner
of Social Sec., 529 F.3d 198, 200 (3d Cir. 2008);
Sanfilippo v. Barnhart, 325 F.3d 391, 393 (3d Cir.
2003) (plenary review of legal questions in social security
cases). Substantial evidence “does not mean a large or
considerable amount of evidence, but rather ‘such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.'” Pierce v.
Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 565 (1988) (quoting
Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229
(1938)); accord Biestek v. Berryhill, 139 S.Ct.
1148, 1154, 203 L.Ed.2d 504 (2019). The Court's review is
based on the record, and the Court will “meticulously
examine the record as a whole, including anything that may
undercut or detract from the [Administrative Law Judge's]
findings in order to determine if the substantiality test has
been met.” Id. Substantial evidence is a
deferential standard of review. See Jones v.
Barnhart, 364 F.3d 501, 503 (3d Cir. 2004).
Court may neither re-weigh the evidence nor substitute its
judgment for that of the fact-finder. Rutherford v.
Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546, 552 (3d Cir. 2005). The Court
will not set the Commissioner's decision aside if it is
supported by substantial evidence, even if the Court would
have decided the factual inquiry differently. Hartranft
v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir. 1999) (citing 42
U.S.C. § 405(g)).
10, 2014, Plaintiff filed an application for Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act (Act) (42 U.S.C. §§
1381-1383(f)) with an alleged disability onset date of
November 12, 2013. (Tr. 14, 83). Plaintiff alleged disability
due to the following impairments: HIV, major depression, mood
disorder, uncontrollable impulse, post-traumatic disorder,
and anxiety. (Tr. 83). On July 12, 2017, the ALJ found
Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act.
(Tr. 11-27). Plaintiff sought review of the decision, which
the Appeals Council denied on July 13, 2018, thereby
affirming the decision of the ALJ as the “final
decision” of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration. (Tr. 1-8).
September 10, 2018, Plaintiff filed the above-captioned
action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) to appeal a
decision of Defendant denying social security benefits. (Doc.
1). On November 19, 2018, Defendant filed an answer and an
administrative transcript of proceedings. (Doc. 4, 5). On
April 30, 2019, Plaintiff filed a brief in support of the
appeal. (Doc. 8 (“Pl. Br.”)). May 30, 2019,
Defendant filed a brief in response. (Doc. 9 (“Def.
appeal, Plaintiff alleges the following errors: (1) the ALJ
erred by “failing to properly consider the limitations
from Plaintiff's post-traumatic stress disorder, major
depressive disorder and mood disorder”; (2) the ALJ
erred in determining the RFC by not adopting the treating
source opinion of Dr. Anne V. Dall; (3) the ALJ erred
“in considering Plaintiff's mental-health related
disorders under the Listings Under 12.00, ” and; (4)
the ALJ erred “by failing to properly consider the GAF
scores assigned to Plaintiff.” Pl. Br. at 1-2.
was born in September 1993, and thus is classified by the
regulations as a younger individual through the date of the
July 2017 ALJ decision. (Tr. 83); 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1563(c), 416.963(c). Plaintiff has never engaged in
“substantial gainful activity;” (Tr. 21) however,
during the alleged period of disability, she worked
seasonally at Hershey Park, volunteered at an animal shelter
and at church, and taught English as a second language to
adults. (Tr. 34, 48, 501, 566, 614, 724, 771, 779, 820, 830).
Plaintiff completed the twelfth grade. (Tr. 76).
Treating Physician Opinion
argues the ALJ erred in determining the RFC by not adopting
the treating source opinion of Dr. Anne V. Dall. Pl. Br. at
1-2. The ALJ detailed the limitations opined by Dr. Dall:
[T]he opinion of Anne Dall, M.D., in July 2016, suggest[ed]
that [Plaintiff] has marked limitation in the ability to
carry out detailed instructions, maintain attention and
concentration for extended periods, perform activities within
a schedule, maintain regular attendance, be punctual within
customary tolerances, complete a normal workday and work week
without interruptions from psychologically-based symptoms,
performing a consistent pace without an unreasonable number
and length of rest periods, respond appropriately to changes
in the work setting, and tolerate normal levels of stress
[Tr. 693-696]. Dr. Dall further suggested that [Plaintiff]
would have moderate limitations in the ability to set
realistic goals or make plans independently of others, get
along with coworkers or peers without distracting them are
exhibiting behavioral extremes, accept instructions and
respond appropriately to criticism from supervisors, and work
in coordination with or proximity to others without being
distracted by them, sustain ordinary routine without special
(Tr. 20). A treating physician's opinion does not warrant
controlling weight under the regulations unless it is well
supported by clinical and laboratory diagnostic findings and
consistent with other substantial evidence. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1527(c)(2); Plummer v. Apfel, 186 F.3d 422, 429
(3d Cir. 1999). If a treating source's opinion is not
entitled to controlling weight, the factors outlined in 20
C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2) are used to determine the weight
to give the opinion. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2);
Plummer v. Apfel, 186 F.3d 422, 429 (3d Cir.
1999). The ALJ, not the treating or examining
physician, must make the disability and residual functional
capacity determination. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(d)(1)-(2);
Chandler v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 6 ...