United States District Court, E.D. Pennsylvania
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION
J. RUETER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
10, 2020 Plaintiff, Daisyvette Acevedo, filed this action
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review
of the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“Commissioner”) denying
her claim for supplemental security income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
filed a Brief and Statement of Issues in Support of Request
for Review (“Pl.'s Br.”), defendant filed a
Response to Plaintiff's Request for Review
(“Def.'s Br.”), and plaintiff filed a reply
thereto (“Pl.'s Reply”). Additionally,
defendant filed a Motion to Stay (Doc. 15), to which
plaintiff filed a response in opposition (Doc. 16). For the
reasons set forth below, the plaintiff's Request for
Review will be GRANTED to the extent that
the case will be remanded for further proceedings, and the
Motion to Stay will be DENIED.
FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
filed an application for SSI on October 30, 2015, alleging
disability beginning September 30, 2008. (R. 157-68.)
Plaintiff's claim was denied initially; she then filed a
request for a hearing. (R. 70-89, 93-95.) A hearing was held
on January 18, 2018, before Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Brian Battles. (R. 37-69.) Plaintiff,
represented by counsel, appeared and testified. A vocational
expert (“VE”) was available to testify at the
administrative hearing by telephone, but the ALJ did not seek
her testimony at that time. Instead, the ALJ obtained
responses to written interrogatories from the VE and from a
medical expert (“ME”) subsequent to the hearing.
See R. 270-91, 1024-28.
decision dated June 26, 2018, the ALJ found that plaintiff
was not disabled under the Act. (R. 12-31.) The ALJ made the
1. The claimant has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since October 22, 2015, the application date (20 CFR
416.971 et seq.).
2. The claimant has the following severe impairments:
hidradenitis suppurativa; migraines; depression; anxiety;
bipolar disorder; and scoliosis (20 CFR 416.920(c)).
3. The claimant does not have an impairment or combination of
impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1 (20 CFR 416.920(d), 416.925, and 416.926).
4. After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform sedentary work as defined in
20 CFR 416.967(a) except that she could occasionally balance,
stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl and occasionally climb ramps
and stairs. The claimant cannot climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds. The claimant cannot work in hazardous environments
such as unprotected heights or around dangerous machinery and
open flames. The claimant can tolerate occasional contact
with supervisors, coworkers, and the public. The claimant can
perform unskilled, simple, routine, repetitive tasks and can
work in a low stress job, defined as only making occasional
decisions, and tolerating only occasional changes in the work
setting. Finally, the individual would need to be in a
position that would allow her to stand for 5 minutes after
sitting for 30 minutes, in addition to normal breaks,
throughout the workday while remaining at the workstation to
alleviate pain and discomfort.
5. The claimant has no past relevant work (20 CFR 416.965).
6. The claimant was born on September 15, 1985, and was 30
years old, which is defined as a younger individual age
18-44, on the date the application was filed (20 CFR
7. The claimant has at least a high school education and is
able to communicate in English (20 CFR 416.964).
8. Transferability of job skills is not an issue because the
claimant does not have past relevant work (20 CFR 416.968).
9. Considering the claimant's age, education, work
experience, and residual functional capacity, there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that the claimant can perform (20 CFR 416.969 and
10. The claimant has not been under a disability, as defined
in the Social Security Act, since October 22, 2015, the date
the application was filed (20 CFR 416.920(g)).
filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision that was
denied and the ALJ's decision became the final decision
of the Commissioner. (R. 1-8, 153-56.) Plaintiff now seeks
judicial review of the ALJ's decision pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
role of this court on judicial review is to determine whether
there is substantial evidence in the record to support the
Commissioner's decision. Hagans v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 694 F.3d 287, 292 (3d Cir. 2012) (citing 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g)), cert. denied, 571 U.S. 1204 (2014);
Plummer v. Apfel, 186 F.3d 422, 427 (3d Cir. 1999).
Substantial evidence is defined as “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion.” Biestek v. Berryhill,
139 S.Ct. 1148, 1154 (2019) (quoting Consol. Edison Co.
v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). Substantial evidence
is more than a mere scintilla of evidence, but may be less
than a preponderance of the evidence. Jesurum v.
Sec'y of U.S. Dep't of Health and Human Serv.,
48 F.3d 114, 117 (3d Cir. 1995). This court may not weigh
evidence or substitute its conclusions for those of the
fact-finder. Burns v. Barnhart, 312 F.3d 113, 118
(3d Cir. 2002) (citing Williams v. Sullivan, 970
F.2d 1178, 1182 (3d Cir. 1992)). As the Third Circuit has
stated, “so long as an agency's fact-finding is
supported by substantial evidence, reviewing courts lack
power to reverse . . . those findings.” Monsour
Med. Ctr. v. Heckler, 806 F.2d 1185, 1191 (3d Cir.
eligible for benefits, the claimant must demonstrate an
“inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §
1382c(a)(3)(A). Specifically, the impairments must be such
that the claimant “is not only unable to do his
previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and
work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial
gainful work which exists in the national economy.” 42
U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B). Under the Act, the claimant has
the burden of proving the existence of a disability and must
furnish medical evidence indicating the severity of the
impairment. 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(H)(i).
Social Security Administration employs a five-part procedure
to determine whether an individual has met this burden. 20
C.F.R. § 416.920. This process requires the Commissioner to
consider, in sequence, whether a claimant: (1) is currently
employed; (2) has a severe impairment; (3) has an impairment
which meets or equals the requirements of a listed
impairment; (4) can perform past relevant work; and (5) if
not, whether the claimant is able to perform other work, in
view of his age, education, and work experience. See
id. The claimant bears the burden of establishing steps
one through four of the five-step evaluation process, while
the burden shifts to the Commissioner at step five to show
that the claimant is capable of performing other jobs
existing in large numbers in the national economy. Hess
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 931 F.3d 198, 201 (3d Cir.
time of the January 18, 2018 administrative hearing,
plaintiff was thirty-two years old and lived with her
fourteen-year-old daughter in a two-story home. (R. 45-46.)
Plaintiff has a driver's license and estimated that she
drives once per week, either to a doctor's appointment or
to pick up her daughter. (R. 47.) With respect to her
education, plaintiff stated that she is a high school
graduate and also obtained a certification in medical
billing. (R. 47-48.)
counsel explained that plaintiff has hidradenitis suppurativa
(“HS”), which results in skin lesions on her
back, arms, face, hips, and groin. (R. 44.) Plaintiff's
counsel noted that HS is a listed condition and ...