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Andrade v. Saul

United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania

December 17, 2019

SILVIA ANDRADE
v.
ANDREW SAUL[1], Commissioner of Social Security

          OPINION

          JACOB P. HART UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Silvia Andrade brought this action under 42 USC §405(g) to obtain review of the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security denying her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”). She has filed a Request for Review to which the Commissioner has responded. As set forth below, Andrade's Request for Review will be granted in part and the matter remanded for the taking of further testimony from a vocational expert to determine whether work exists which can be performed without accommodation by an individual of Andrade's height.

         I. Factual and Procedural Background

         Andrade was born on November 30, 1982. Record at 164. She completed the eleventh grade in school. Record at 214. She worked as a line worker in a poultry preparing factory for ten years. Record at 214. Andrade is approximately 3 feet and 9 inches tall. Record at 341.

         On September 24, 2015, Andrade filed her applications for DIB and SSI. Record at 164, 171. In them she asserted disability as of January 11, 2015, as a result of back pain caused by scoliosis, and leg pain. Record at 164, 171, 213.

         Andrade's applications were denied on December 18, 2015. Record at 73, 74. She then sought de novo review by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Record at 87. A hearing was held in this matter on October 25, 2017. Record at 32. On January 22, 2018, however, the ALJ issued a written decision denying benefits. Record at 18. The Appeals Council denied Andrade's request for review, permitting the ALJ's decision to stand as the final decision of the Commissioner. Record at 1. Andrade then filed this action.

         II. Legal Standards

         The role of this court on judicial review is to determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. §405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389 (1971); Doak v. Heckler, 790 F.2d 26, 28 (3d Cir. 1986); Newhouse v. Heckler, 753 F.2d 283, 285 (3d Cir. 1985). Substantial evidence is relevant evidence viewed objectively as adequate to support a decision. Richardson v. Perales, supra at 401; Kangas v. Bowen, 823 F.2d 775 (3d Cir. 1987); Dobrowolsky v. Califano, 606 F.2d 403 (3d Cir. 1979). Moreover, apart from the substantial evidence inquiry, a reviewing court must also ensure that the ALJ applied the proper legal standards. Coria v. Heckler, 750 F.2d 245 (3d Cir. 1984).

         To prove disability, a claimant must demonstrate that there is some "medically determinable basis for an impairment that prevents him from engaging in any 'substantial gainful activity' for a statutory twelve-month period." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1). As explained in the following agency regulation, each case is evaluated by the Commissioner according to a five-step process:

(i) At the first step, we consider your work activity if any. If you are doing substantial gainful activity, we will find that you are not disabled. (ii) At the second step, we consider the medical severity of your impairment(s). If you do not have a severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment that meets the duration requirement in § 404.1509, or a combination of impairments that is severe and meets the duration requirement, we will find that you are not disabled. (iii) At the third step, we also consider the medical severity of your impairment(s). If you have an impairment(s) that meets or equals one of our listings in appendix 1 of this subpart and meets the duration requirement, we will find that you are disabled. (iv). At the fourth step, we consider our assessment of your residual functional capacity and your past relevant work. If you can still do your past relevant work, we will find that you are not disabled. (v). At the fifth and last step, we consider our assessment of your residual functional capacity and your age, education and work experience to see if you can make an adjustment to other work. If you can make an adjustment to other work, we will find that you are not disabled. If you cannot make an adjustment to other work, we will find that you are disabled.

20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (references to other regulations omitted).

         III. The ALJ's Decision and Andrade's Request for Review

         The ALJ determined that Andrade suffered from the severe impairments of scoliosis, asthma, and obesity. Record at 20. She determined that the record also established the existence of dwarfism, but that it was not a severe impairment because Andrade's history of employment showed that it had no more than a minimal effect upon her ability to work. Record at 21. The ALJ found that none of Andrade's impairments, and no combination of her impairments met or medically equaled a listed impairment. Id.

         The ALJ determined that Andrade retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform sedentary work with these limitations: occasional postural activities, including climbing ladders, ropes or scaffolds; no unprotected heights; limited ability to speak and understand English; and a need to ...


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