Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Ball v. Commissioner of Social Security

United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania

September 26, 2019

ANN MARIE BALL, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, Defendant.

          ORDER

          ALAN N. BLOCH, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         AND 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. 1981)).[1]

         Therefore, 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.

---------

Notes:

[1] 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. § 404.1526.

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, which requires:

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 requires:

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 1.

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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.