United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
N. BLOCH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
NOW, this 26th 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. Sec’y of U.S. Dep’t
of Health & Human Servs., 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.
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that Plaintiff’s Motion for
Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 7) is DENIED and Defendant’s
Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 9) is GRANTED.
 Plaintiff argues that the
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) erred by: (1)
failing to find that Plaintiff’s physical impairments
meet the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the
“Listings”), specifically Listing 1.04, at Step
Three of the sequential analysis; (2) failing to find that
Plaintiff’s mental impairments meet the severity of
Listing 12.04; (3) improperly formulating Plaintiff’s
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) assessment
and her corresponding hypothetical question to the vocational
expert (“VE”); (4) failing to consider all of the
VE’s testimony; and (5) denying Plaintiff a fair
hearing. The Court disagrees and finds that substantial
evidence supports the ALJ’s findings as well as her
ultimate determination, based on all the evidence presented,
of Plaintiff’s non-disability.
First, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred in
finding that her physical impairments do not meet the
severity of Listing 1.04 at Step Three of the sequential
analysis. At the outset, the Court notes that the Listings
operate as a regulatory device used to streamline the
decision-making process by identifying claimants whose
impairments are so severe that they may be presumed to be
disabled. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1525(a). Because
the Listings define impairments that would prevent a claimant
from performing any gainful activity-not just substantial
gainful activity-the medical criteria contained in the
Listings are set at a higher level than the statutory
standard for disability. See Sullivan v. Zebley, 493
U.S. 521, 532 (1990). Thus, a claimant has the burden of
proving a presumptively disabling impairment by presenting
medical evidence that meets all of the criteria of a listed
impairment or is equal in severity to all of the criteria for
the most similar listed impairment. See 20 C.F.R.
In this case, the ALJ explained in her decision that
Plaintiff’s impairments do not meet or medically equal
the requirements of the impairments set forth in Listing
1.04, “Disorders of the spine.” (R. 14-15).
Listing 1.04 provides that to meet the listing for disorders
of the spine, it must be established that Plaintiff
experiences such a disorder, such as a herniated nucleus
pulposus, spinal arachnoiditis, spinal stenosis,
osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, facet arthritis,
or vertebral fracture, resulting in compromise of a nerve
root (including the cauda equina) or the spinal cord, and
that she meets the criteria of one of three additional
subsections. Plaintiff relies, in part, on subsection A,
Evidence of nerve root compression characterized by
neuro-anatomic distribution of pain, limitation of motion of
the spine, motor loss (atrophy with associated muscle
weakness or muscle weakness) accompanied by sensory or reflex
loss and, if there is involvement of the lower back, positive
straight-leg raising test (sitting and supine).
Listing 1.04A, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
1. Plaintiff also relies on subsection C, which
Lumbar spinal stenosis resulting in
pseudoclaudication, established by findings on appropriate
medically acceptable imaging, manifested by chronic
nonradicular pain and weakness, and resulting in inability to
ambulate effectively, as defined in 1.00B2b.
Listing 1.04C, 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
Moreover, all listings under 1.00, including 1.04A and
1.04C, require evidence of the inability to ambulate
effectively or to perform fine and gross movements
effectively. See Leibig v. Barnhart, 243 Fed.Appx.
699, 702 (3d Cir. 2007); Phillips v. Colvin, No.
1:16-cv-1033, 2017 WL 3820973, at *5 (M.D. Pa. Aug. 16,
2017); Listing 1.00(B)(2)(a). In this case, Plaintiff has not
presented evidence of motor loss accompanied by sensory or
reflex loss, and the record instead shows no muscle atrophy
and intact/full strength and intact sensation and reflexes on
various occasions. (R. 566, 781-82, 785, 788, 790-91, 797-98,
808, 855). Further, Plaintiff has not shown an inability to
ambulate effectively, as no evidence was presented to show
that she used a walker, two crutches or two canes during the
relevant period. See 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P,
App. 1, § 1.00(B)(2)(b) (generally defining ineffective
ambulation as having insufficient lower extremity functioning
“to permit independent ambulation without the use of a
hand-held assistive device(s) that limits the functioning of
both upper extremities”).
In her decision, the ALJ stated that she had
considered whether Plaintiff’s impairments, both singly
and in combination, meet or medically equal the requirements
of any of the impairments set forth in Listing 1.04, but she
found that they did not. Since a thorough review of the
record shows that Plaintiff’s impairments clearly do
not meet the criteria for Listing 1.04, the Court notes that
the ALJ did not need to specifically analyze in her decision
each of the Listing’s requirements. Thus, despite
Plaintiff’s arguments to the ...