United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
J. RUETER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Samantha Renee Meacham, 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 her claim
for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under
Title II of the Social Security Act (“Act”) and
supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title
XVI of the Act.
filed a Brief and Statement of Issues in Support of Request
for Review (Doc. 14) (“Pl.'s Br.”) and
defendant filed a Response to Plaintiff's Request for
Review (“Def.'s Br.”). For the reasons set
forth below, the court recommends that plaintiff's
Request for Review be DENIED.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
filed applications for DIB and SSI on July 27, 2015, alleging
disability beginning August 1, 2014. (R. 170-80.)
Plaintiff's claims were denied initially and she filed a
timely request for a hearing. (R. 68-97, 100-11.) A hearing
was held on October 31, 2017, before Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Susannah Merritt. (R. 32-67.) Plaintiff,
represented by counsel, appeared and testified. Christine
Carrozza-Slusarski, a vocational expert (“VE”),
also appeared and testified. At the administrative hearing,
plaintiff's counsel requested that the alleged onset date
be amended to October 25, 2014. (R. 36.) In a decision dated
December 28, 2017, the ALJ found that plaintiff was not
disabled under the Act. (R. 12-31.) The ALJ made the
1. The claimant meets the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through December 31, 2019.
2. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since October 25, 2014, the amended alleged onset
date. (20 CFR 404.1571 et seq., and 416.971 et
3. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
multiple sclerosis (MS), headaches, bipolar disorder, anxiety
disorder, and myalgia in the right leg. (20 CFR 404.1520(c)
4. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of a
listed impairment in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
(20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925
5. After careful consideration of the entire record, I find
that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b) except that in an eight hour workday, she can sit
for six hours, stand for four hours, and walk for four hours.
In addition, she can occasionally climb ramps and stairs,
balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl but can never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can tolerate occasional
exposure to unprotected heights, moving mechanical parts, and
extreme cold. She is further limited to the performance of
simple, routine, and repetitive tasks that are not at a
production rate pace, i.e. no assembly line work. Finally,
the work must involve only simple work-related decisions with
few changes in a routine work setting and no more than
occasional interaction with the public, co-workers, and
6. The claimant is unable to perform any of his past relevant
work. (20 CFR 404.1565 and 416.965).
7. The claimant was born on June 29, 1980 and was 34 years
old, which is defined as a younger individual age 18-49, on
the alleged disability onset date (20 CFR 404.1563 and
8. The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English (20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964).
9. Transferability of job skills is not material to the
determination of disability because using the
Medical-Vocational Rules as a framework supports a finding
that the claimant is “not disabled, ” whether or
not the claimant has transferable job skills (See SSR 82-41
and 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 2).
10. Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 404.1569, 404.1569(a),
416.969, and 416.969(a)).
11. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, from October 25, 2014, through
the date of this decision (20 C.F.R. 404.1520(g) and
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. 1-8, 163-69.) Plaintiff now
seeks 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), 1382c(a)(3)(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),
1382c(a)(3)(B). 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), 1382c(a)(3)(H)(i).
Social Security Administration employs a five-part procedure
to determine whether an individual has met this burden. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. 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. Hess v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 931 F.3d 198, 201 (3d Cir. 2019).
commencement of the October 31, 2017 administrative hearing,
plaintiff's counsel requested that the alleged onset date
be amended to October 25, 2014. (R. 36.) Counsel noted that
plaintiff has a history of substance abuse in remission; the
amended alleged onset date corresponds to the date of last
drug use. Id.
who was thirty-seven years old at the time of the
administrative hearing, testified that she lived in apartment
with her fiancé and five-year-old daughter. (R. 36,
38.) Plaintiff drives and “rarely” takes public
transportation, although she used public transportation to
travel to the administrative hearing. (R. 39.) Plaintiff
graduated from high school and completed approximately four
semesters of schooling at Delaware County Community College.
Id. She stopped attending school when she became
pregnant with her daughter in 2011. (R. 40.)
last worked in 2015, when she was employed for one month as a
part-time cashier at Chipotle. Id. Plaintiff
explained that her employment was terminated because she
“wasn't catching on to their computer system and it
just wasn't working out.” (R. 41.) Prior to this
employment, plaintiff worked full-time at Santander Bank for
eight years. Id. She worked as head teller for two
of the eight years. Id. In this role, plaintiff
supervised one other employee. Id. With respect to
the physical requirements of the teller job, plaintiff
testified that she was permitted to perform the work while
sitting or standing. (R. 41.) The heaviest item that she was
required to lift was a box of coins. (R. 42.) Plaintiff's
responsibilities also included accurately maintaining her
cash drawer and interacting with customers. (R. 43.) In
addition, the position included sales duties; tellers were to
sell various bank products such as credit cards and bank
accounts. Id. Plaintiff indicated that she stopped
working as a bank teller when she began experiencing
“brain fog, ” became frustrated, and felt that
she could no longer perform the job. (R. 46.) Plaintiff was
not terminated from this employment, but acknowledged ...