United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
I. Quiñones Alejandro United States District Judge.
NOW, this 3rd day of October 2019, upon a
careful and independent consideration of the administrative
record, [ECF 9], the Report and Recommendation (the
“R&R”) issued on August 21, 2019, by the
Honorable Richard A. Lloret, United States Magistrate Judge,
[ECF 18], the objections to the R&R filed by Plaintiff
Elizabeth Becketts (“Plaintiff”), [ECF 19], and
Defendant's response to Plaintiff's objections, [ECF
21], it is hereby ORDERED that:
1. Plaintiff's objections are OVERRULED;
2. The Report and Recommendation is
APPROVED and ADOPTED;
3. The decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration is AFFIRMED; and
4. Plaintiff's complaint seeking judicial review pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) is
In the R&R, the Magistrate Judge recommended the denial
of Plaintiff's request for review of an unfavorable
decision rendered by an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) on her disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) claim. Plaintiff filed timely objections.
When considering objections to a magistrate judge's
R&R, a court must undertake a de novo review of the
portions of the R&R to which a plaintiff has objected.
See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1); Cont'l Cas. Co. v.
Dominick D'Andrea, Inc., 150 F.3d 245, 250 (3d Cir.
1998). The court “may accept, reject or modify, in
whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the
magistrate judge.” 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). Judicial
review of an ALJ's decision is, however, limited in
scope. In reviewing the Commissioner's final
determination that a person is not disabled and, therefore,
not entitled to Social Security benefits, the court may not
independently weigh the evidence or substitute its own
conclusions for those of the ALJ. Chandler v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec., 667 F.3d 356, 359 (3d Cir. 2011);
Burns v. Barnhart, 312 F.3d 113, 118 (3d Cir. 2002).
Instead, the court must review the administrative factual
findings in order to determine whether the ALJ's findings
are supported by substantial evidence. See 42 U.S.C. §
405(g); Rutherford v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546, 552
(3d Cir. 2005). Substantial evidence constitutes that which a
“reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Rutherford, 399 F.3d at 552.
“It is ‘more than a mere scintilla but may be
somewhat less than a preponderance of the
evidence.'” Id. (quoting Ginsburg v.
Richardson, 436 F.2d 1146, 1148 (3d Cir. 1971)). If the
ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence, the
court may not set it aside “even if [the court] would
have decided the factual inquiry differently.”
Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir.
After conducting the five-step sequential evaluation process
for determining whether a person is disabled (see 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.920(a)), the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered the
following severe impairments: cervical degenerative disc
disease status-post fusion, lumbar degenerative disc disease,
depression, and an anxiety disorder which singly or in
combination, did not meet or equal the criteria of any of the
Listings. After considering the totality of the evidence
presented, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff retained a
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) that allowed
her to perform light work, subject to certain limitations,
such that she was able to adjust to work that exists in
significant numbers in the national and regional economy and
was, therefore, not disabled within the meaning of the Social
Upon judicial review, the Magistrate Judge found that the
administrative record contained substantial evidence to
support the ALJ's findings. Plaintiff objects to the
Magistrate Judge's findings. Her objections, however, are
essentially the same challenges made in her initial appeal
brief; to wit: that the ALJ erred by failing to give
“great weight” to the opinion of Plaintiff's
treating physician, Dr. Mannino; improperly giving
“great weight” to the opinion of the state agency
non-examining reviewer; and not fully and adequately
considering Plaintiff's long work history when evaluating
her subjective complaints of pain.
This Court finds that Plaintiff's objections lack merit.
After a careful de novo review of Plaintiff's objections,
the ALJ's decision, the underlying administrative record,
the parties' briefs, and the R&R, this Court finds
that the Magistrate Judge correctly addressed the issues
initially presented on appeal and again by the underlying
objections. Indeed, in his 25-page, well-reasoned R&R,
the Magistrate Judge thoroughly and carefully addressed each
of the issues raised. For example, though the Magistrate
Judge recognized that the ALJ failed to reference two forms
completed by Dr. Mannino that referenced various limitations,
he correctly noted that the ALJ thoroughly addressed Dr.
Mannino's later physical capacities opinion, which
addressed many of the same limitations. The Magistrate Judge
also correctly noted that while the ALJ did not appear to
give much weight to Plaintiff's long work history when
assessing her subjective level of pain, the ALJ's
consideration of multiple other factors and evidence
supported the ALJ's ultimate conclusions.
A review of the administrative record makes clear that the
ALJ considered all relevant evidence and opinions. The
factual findings made by the ALJ are supported by substantial
evidence of record, are within the providence of the ALJ, and
applied the correct legal standards. This Court, therefore,
concludes that the Magistrate ...