United States District Court, W.D. Pennsylvania
OPINION AND ORDER
Donetta W. Ambrose, United States Senior District Judge.
Rianna Wallace (“Wallace”) filed an application
for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits
on February 19, 2015, alleging disability beginning on
February 20, 2015. (R. 13). She was represented by counsel at
a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”), during which both she and a vocational
expert (“VE”) appeared and testified. (R. 13)
Ultimately, the ALJ denied benefits and the Appeals Council
denied Wallace's request for review. She then filed this
appeal. The parties have filed Cross-Motions for Summary
Judgment. See ECF Docket Nos. 6 and 10. For the
reasons set forth below, the ALJ's decision is affirmed.
Standard of Review
review of the Commissioner's final decisions on
disability claims is provided by statute. 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3)(7). Section 405(g) permits
a district court to review the transcripts and records upon
which a determination of the Commissioner is based, and the
court will review the record as a whole. See 5 U.S.C. §
706. When reviewing a decision, the district court's role
is limited to determining whether the record contains
substantial evidence to support an ALJ's findings of
fact. Burns v. Barnhart, 312 F.3d 113, 118 (3d Cir.
2002). Substantial evidence has been defined as “more
than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate.” Ventura
v. Shalala, 55 F.3d 900, 901 (3d Cir. 1995), quoting
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).
Determining whether substantial evidence exists is “not
merely a quantitative exercise.” Gilliland v.
Heckler, 786 F.2d 178, 183 (3d Cir. 1986)
(citing Kent v. Schweiker, 710 F.2d 110,
114 (3d Cir. 1983)). “A single piece of evidence will
not satisfy the substantiality test if the secretary ignores,
or fails to resolve, a conflict created by countervailing
evidence. Nor is evidence substantial if it is overwhelmed by
other evidence - particularly certain types of evidence
(e.g., that offered by treating physicians).”
Id. The Commissioner's findings of fact, if
supported by substantial evidence, are conclusive. 42 U.S.C.
§405(g); Dobrowolsky v. Califano, 606 F.2d 403,
406 (3d Cir. 1979); Richardson, 402 U.S. at 390, 91
a district court cannot conduct a de novo review of
the Commissioner's decision, or re-weigh the evidence of
record; the court can only judge the propriety of the
decision with reference to the grounds invoked by the
Commissioner when the decision was rendered. Palmer v.
Apfel, 995 F.Supp. 549, 552 (E.D. Pa. 1998); S.E.C.
v. Chenery Corp., 332 U.S. 194, 196-7, 67 S.Ct. 1575, 91
L.Ed. 1995 (1947). Otherwise stated, “I may not weigh
the evidence or substitute my own conclusion for that of the
ALJ. I must defer to the ALJ's evaluation of evidence,
assessment of the credibility of witnesses, and
reconciliation of conflicting expert opinions. If the
ALJ's findings of fact are supported by substantial
evidence, I am bound by those findings, even if I would have
decided the factual inquiry differently.” Brunson
v. Astrue, 2011 WL 2036692, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55457
(E.D. Pa. Apr. 14, 2011) (citations omitted).
The ALJ's Decision
stated above, the ALJ denied Wallace's claim for
benefits. More specifically, at step one, the ALJ found that
Wallace has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since
the alleged onset date. (R. 15) At step two, the ALJ concluded
that Wallace suffers from the following severe impairments:
epilepsy; major depressive disorder; bipolar disorder;
schizoaffective disorder; anxiety disorder; panic disorder
with agoraphobia; personality disorder; attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder; and post-traumatic stress disorder.
(R. 16) At step three, the ALJ determined that Wallace does
not have an impairment or combination of impairments that
meets or medically equals one of the listed impairments in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (R. 16-18) Between
steps three and four, the ALJ decided that Wallace has the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform
medium work with certain restrictions. (R. 18-21) At step
four, the ALJ found that Wallace is unable to perform her
past relevant work. (R. 21-22) At the fifth step of the
analysis, the ALJ concluded that, considering Wallace's
age, education, work experience, and RFC, there are jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the national economy that she
can perform. (R. 22-23)
takes issue with the ALJ's assessment of her ability to
perform daily activities. See ECF Docket No. 7, p.
7-9. The ALJ found that Wallace's description of daily
activities “are inconsistent with her complaints of
disabling symptoms and limitations.” (R. 20)
Specifically, he noted that:
The claimant is a mother of four children. While she
testified that only two children are currently living with
her, during the period at issue, she was living with and
taking care of all four children. The claimant indicated in
her function report that she would prepare meals, help with
hygiene, assist with homework, and play games with her
family. The claimant noted that she shopped for groceries and
clothes on a weekly basis and performed household chores (Ex.
5E). These activities are not limited to the extent one would
expect, given the complaints of disabling symptoms and
limitations the claimant alleged.
(R. 20) The ALJ's consideration of these activities are
totally appropriate and are consistent with the regulations.
See Simington v. Colvin, Civ. No. 13-178, 2014 WL
4829031, at * 5 (W.D. Pa. Sept. 29, 2014), citing, 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1529(c) and 416.929(c). Additionally,
substantial evidence of record supports the ALJ's
conclusions in this regard. (R. 192-198) Further, although
Wallace faults the ALJ for failing to mention what Wallace
insists were difficulties she encounters when shopping,
preparing meals, and doing chores, the ALJ did in fact
acknowledge that, “[i]n her Function Report, the
claimant indicated difficulties with walking, talking,
memory, completing tasks, concentration, understanding,
following instructions, and getting along with others (Ex.
5E).” (R. 19) Indeed, “[t]here is no requirement
that the ALJ discuss in its opinion every tidbit of evidence
included in the record.” Hur v. Barnhart, 94
Fed.Appx. 130, 133 (3d Cir. 2004). While I agree with Wallace
that activities of daily living cannot be used to show an
ability to engage in substantial gainful activity,
ALJ did not do so here. ...