United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
ELIZABETH T. HEY, U.S.M.J.
Murphy (“Plaintiff”) seeks review, pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g), of the Commissioner's decision
denying his claims for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) and supplemental security income
(“SSI”). For the reasons that follow, I conclude
that the decision of the Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) denying benefits is not supported by
substantial evidence and will remand the case for further
proceedings pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. §
filed for DIB and SSI on January 8, 2015, claiming that he
became disabled on January 2, 2015, due to a heart condition.
Tr. at 66, 67, 112, 116, 162, 166.The applications
were denied initially, id. 68-71, 72-75, and
Plaintiff requested an administrative hearing before an ALJ,
id. at 78-80, which took place on June 13, 2017.
Id. at 27-53. On August 16, 2017, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff was not disabled. Id. at 13-22. The
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on
September 5, 2018, id. at 1-3, making the ALJ's
August 16, 2017 decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1472.
commenced this action in federal court on November 1, 2018.
Doc. 1. The matter is now fully briefed and ripe for review.
prove disability, a claimant must demonstrate an
“inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment . . . which has lasted or can be expected
to last for . . not less than twelve months.” 42 U.S.C.
§ 423(d)(1). The Commissioner employs a five-step
1. Whether the claimant is currently engaged in substantially
2. If not, whether the claimant has a “severe
impairment” that significantly limits his physical or
mental ability to perform basic work activities;
3. If so, whether based on the medical evidence, the
impairment meets or equals the criteria of an impairment
listed in the “listing of impairments”
(“Listings”), 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app.
1, which results in a presumption of disability;
4. If the impairment does not meet or equal the criteria for
a listed impairment, whether, despite the severe impairment,
the claimant has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform his past work; and
5. If the claimant cannot perform his past work, then the
final step is to determine whether there is other work in the
national economy that the claimant can perform.
See Zirnsak v. Colvin, 777 F.3d 607, 610 (3d Cir.
2014); see also 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). Plaintiff bears the burden of
proof at steps one through four, while the burden shifts to
the Commissioner at the fifth step to establish that the
claimant is capable of performing other jobs in the local and
national economies, in light of his age, education, work
experience, and RFC. See Poulos v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 474 F.3d 88, 92 (3d Cir. 2007).
court's role on judicial review is to determine whether
the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial
evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Schaudeck v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 181 F.3d 429, 431 (3d
Cir. 1999). Therefore, the issue in this case is whether
there is substantial evidence to support the
Commissioner's conclusions that Plaintiff is not disabled
and is capable of performing jobs that exist in significant
numbers in the national economy. Substantial evidence is
“such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might
accept as adequate to support a conclusion, ” and must
be “more than a mere scintilla.”
Zirnsak, 777 F.2d at 610 (quoting Rutherford v.
Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546, 552 (3d Cir. 2005)). The court
has plenary review of legal issues. Schaudeck, 181
F.3d at 431.
ALJ's Findings and Plaintiff's
ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from several severe
impairments at the second step of the sequential evaluation;
hypertension, unstable angina, lumbar degenerative changes,
gastroesophageal reflux disease (“GERD”), and
hepatitis C. Tr. at 16. The ALJ next found that
Plaintiff did not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that met the Listings, id. at 17, and
that Plaintiff retained the RFC to perform medium work,
requiring lifting and/or carrying fifty pounds occasionally
and twenty-five pounds frequently, with the ability to sit,
stand, and walk for six hours each, push and/or pull as much
as he can lift or carry, and frequently reach overhead
bilaterally. Id. at 18. He must avoid climbing
ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, can occasionally climb ramps
and stairs, frequently balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and
crawl, but must avoid working at unprotected heights, and can
work in humidity and wetness, dust, odors, fumes and
pulmonary irritants, extreme heat and cold occasionally.
Id. At the fourth step of the evaluation, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff could return to his past relevant work
as an industrial truck operator. Id. at 21.
Alternatively, the ALJ found, based on the testimony of a
vocational expert (“VE”), that Plaintiff could
perform work that exists in significant numbers in the
national economy including jobs as a stores laborer or hand
packager. Id. at 22.
claims that the ALJ failed to properly consider the opinion
of his orthopedic surgeon, improperly gave great weight to
the state agency non-examining physician, and failed to
properly consider Plaintiff's obesity. Docs. 11 at 3-13,
13. Defendant responds that the ALJ properly considered the
medical opinions and evidence and Plaintiff failed to allege
that his obesity affected his ability to work. Doc. 12 at
Summary of Medical Evidence
Plaintiff began treating with Millen W. Gebreselassie, M.D.,
on January 2, 2015, with complaints of pain and burning in
both hips radiating down his legs, and recurrent chest pain
for two years that spontaneously resolves. Tr. at
247. Dr. Gebreselassie referred Plaintiff to cardiologist
Benjamin Silverman, M.D., who noted Plaintiff's history
of hypertension. Id. at 225. Dr. Silverman ordered a
stress test and echocardiogram, id. at 226, which
revealed a small defect consistent with gastrointestinal
uptake. Id. at 230-31, 232-33. After Plaintiff
underwent a colonoscopy, gastroenterologists ...