United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
N. BLOCH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
NOW, this 16th day of September, 2019, upon consideration of
the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, the
Court, upon review of the Commissioner of Social
Security's final decision denying Plaintiff's claim
for disability insurance benefits under Subchapter II of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq.,
finds that the Commissioner's findings are supported by
substantial evidence and, accordingly, affirms. See
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Jesurum v. Secretary of U.S.
Department of Health & Human Services, 48 F.3d 114,
117 (3d Cir. 1995); Williams v. Sullivan, 970 F.2d
1178, 1182 (3d Cir. 1992), cert. denied sub nom.,
507 U.S. 924 (1993); Brown v. Bowen, 845 F.2d 1211,
1213 (3d Cir. 1988). See also Berry v. Sullivan, 738
F.Supp. 942, 944 (W.D. Pa. 1990) (if supported by substantial
evidence, the Commissioner's decision must be affirmed,
as a federal court may neither reweigh the evidence, nor
reverse, merely because it would have decided the claim
differently) (citing Cotter v. Harris, 642 F.2d 700,
705 (3d Cir. 1981)).
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment (document No. 10) is DENIED and that Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment (document No. 12) is GRANTED.
 The Court has little to add to the
decision of the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”),
which was particularly thorough and supported by substantial
record evidence. The ALJ extensively and accurately discussed
the evidence and explained how she formulated Plaintiff's
residual functional capacity. A couple of issues raised by
Plaintiff, though, require some brief further
Plaintiff suggests that the ALJ erred in not ordering
a consultative examination to be performed in regard to the
functional limitations caused by his back and knee
impairments. Specifically, he contends that “it was
incumbent on the ALJ to secure additional evidence”
regarding Plaintiff's ability to maintain regular
attendance in the workplace, perform work activities on a
consistent basis, and complete a normal workday or work week
without interruption. (Doc. No. 11 at 3). However, while an
ALJ may order a consultative
examination if the record is insufficient to render a
decision, he or she is generally not required to do so.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1519a, 404.1520b;
Thompson v. Halter, 45 Fed.Appx. 146, 149 (3d Cir.
2002). Generally, an ALJ is authorized to obtain a
consultative examination “if the information needed to
make a disability determination, ‘such as clinical
findings, laboratory tests, a diagnosis or a prognosis'
cannot be obtained from the claimant's medical
sources.” Tuulaupua v. Colvin, Civ. No.
14-1121, 2015 WL 5769984, at *6 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 30, 2015)
(quoting 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1519a(a) and (b)). Such
an examination may be ordered “to try to resolve an
inconsistency in the evidence or when the evidence as a whole
is insufficient to support a determination or decision on
your claim.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1519a(b). The
decision whether to order such an examination is within the
sound discretion of the ALJ. See Thompson, 45
Fed.Appx. at 149. This decision “should be firmly
rooted in an assessment of the evidence as a whole.”
Woodman v. Berryhill, Civ. No. 3:17-cv-151, 2018 WL
1056401, at *5 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 30, 2018).
The Court here finds that the ALJ did not abuse her
discretion in not obtaining a consultative examination. The
record was not lacking in clinical findings, laboratory
tests, or a diagnosis or prognosis; what it lacked was any
opinion by a treating physician regarding Plaintiff's
functional limitations. To the extent that Plaintiff believed
an opinion from one of his treating physicians was probative,
he certainly could have attempted to obtain one. The Court
cannot find, though, that the lack of such opinion evidence
necessitated a consultative examination. The objective
medical evidence in this case was quite extensive, and the
ALJ did, as discussed below, have the benefit of two state
examining agent opinions. (R. 82-92, 93-103). Likewise, there
was no specific inconsistency that needed to be addressed by
a consultative examiner. Under these circumstances, the Court
finds that substantial evidence supports the ALJ's
exercise of her discretion.
Plaintiff also asserts, however, that, even though the
record did contain the opinions of two state reviewing
agents, R.S. Kadian, M.D., and Gene Godwin, M.D., the ALJ
should not have relied upon them because they were rendered
in April and September of 2015 respectively and therefore did
not account for later record evidence, specifically that
contained in Exhibits 13F and 14F. (Doc. No. 11 at 5).
However, the Court notes that it is not unexpected for the
record to contain evidence post-dating the state reviewing
agent's opinion. Generally speaking, “there is
always a time lapse between the consultant's report and
the ALJ hearing and decision.” Chandler v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 667 F.3d 356, 361 (3d Cir.
2011). Here, the record does not demonstrate any
significantly changed conditions from the dates on which the
reviewing agents' opinions were rendered. Moreover, while
there is in fact evidence to which state reviewing agents had
no access, the ALJ was aware of and considered and discussed
said evidence in weighing the opinions. (R. 20). The Court
further notes that the ALJ gave more weight to the latter of
the two opinions. (Id.).
Accordingly, the ALJ adequately explained the basis
for her findings, and substantial evidence supports her
decision. The ...