United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
SANDRA MOORE WELLS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Lamont Small (“Plaintiff”) seeks judicial review,
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), of the final decision of
the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration
(“the Commissioner”), denying his claim for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act. Plaintiff has filed a brief in
support of his request for review, the Commissioner has
responded to it, and Plaintiff has filed a reply. For the
reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's request for review
is denied and judgment is entered in favor of the
January 15, 2015, Plaintiff applied for DIB, alleging
disability since March 25, 2014, because of physical
problems. R. 46. The claim was denied, initially, and
Plaintiff requested a hearing. Id. On May 11, 2017,
Plaintiff appeared before Ryan Hoback, Administrative Law
Judge (“the ALJ”), for an administrative hearing;
Plaintiff, who was represented by an attorney, and vocational
expert Christine A. Carozza Slusarski (“the VE”)
testified at the hearing. R. 64-101. On December 13, 2017,
the ALJ, using the sequential evaluation process for
disability,  issued an unfavorable decision. R. 46-58.
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, on September 26, 2018, making the ALJ's findings
the final determination of the Commissioner. R. 1-3. The
parties have consented to this court's jurisdiction,
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)(1).
born in October 1967, R. 71, was 50 years old when the ALJ
rendered his decision. He completed high school and two years
of college, R. 73, and worked as a cable installer for 17
years. R. 74, 92. Plaintiff lives with his wife and adult
step-daughter. R. 72.
May 11, 2017 administrative hearing, Plaintiff testified
regarding limitations that he alleges result from his
physical impairments. R. 71-91. Plaintiff stated that the
main reason he was unable to work was his constant pain. R.
77. His pain does not result from an accident or injury,
instead, his doctor has told him that the discs in his back
have been compressed and worn down as a result of the work he
performed on a daily basis. Id. Plaintiff has
undergone two surgeries on his back, one in 2014 and one in
2015. R. 83. He stated that, for approximately two to four
months after the 2015 surgery, he felt better, however, his
pain then resumed at its previous level. R. 85, 87.
described problems in his left leg; if he sits for 20 to 30
minutes, his leg becomes numb. R. 86. Prior to his first
surgery, Plaintiff had left leg pain from his hip down to his
ankle; the 2014 surgery resolved this pain, but not the
numbness. R. 87.
testified that, due to his pain, he is unable to sleep
through the night. R. 80. He usually awakens at 2:00 a.m.,
stays awake for three or four hours, then eats breakfast.
Id. Then, Plaintiff either lays down again and
spends most of his day in bed, or sits in his recliner or
lies on a couch, with his feet propped up. Id. He
can only focus and concentrate, while watching television, if
he is lying down. R. 89.
is able to cook eggs for breakfast, use a microwave to heat
food and prepare sandwiches. Id. He is unable to
clean the house, wash his dirty clothes, or help grocery
shop; he is able to load a dishwasher. R. 81. Plaintiff no
longer attends religious services; he dines out approximately
twice a month and had attended two movies over the previous
three years. R. 82.
classified Plaintiff's past position as a cable installer
as a skilled,  heavy job. R. 92. The ALJ asked the VE to
consider a person of Plaintiff's age, education, work
experience, who was limited to light work, with standing and
walking reduced to two hours, occasionally able to climb
ramps and stairs, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl,
never able to climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds and able to
tolerate occasional exposure to unprotected heights, moving
mechanical parts, humidity, wetness, extreme cold and
vibration, and, finally, occasionally able to drive a car. R.
93. The VE responded that this person could not perform
Plaintiff's past job, but could perform the light,
unskilled jobs of: (1) sorter (51, 000 positions in
the national economy); (2) assembler for plastic hospital
products (60, 500 positions in the national economy); and (3)
inspector for surgical instruments (51, 000 positions in the
national economy). R. 93-94. The VE explained that most light
jobs require six hours of standing and walking, but, based on
her 30 years of experience as a counselor, she opined that
the three jobs she identified could be performed from a
bench-desk position with the worker sitting most of the time.
R. 94. The VE also identified sedentary jobs the
hypothetical person could perform: (1) envelope addresser
(35, 000 positions in the national economy); (2) food and
beverage order clerk (93, 000 positions in the national
economy); and (3) table worker (51, 000 positions in the
national economy). R. 94-95. The VE further opined that, if a
person was absent from work three or more days per month, he
would not be employable. R. 95. In addition, if the person
were off-task 20 percent of the workday, he would be
unemployable. R. 96. Finally, if the person could not, in
combination, sit, stand or walk for eight consecutive hours,
he could not work. Id.