C. Testimony of Witnesses
1. Plaintiff's Testimony
Plaintiff testified as to the details of her medical and employment history at the hearing before the ALJ on January 15, 1993. She testified that she tripped over a rope in a Massachusetts bank on May 20, 1990. (Tr. at 10). A few days later, she sought treatment at the New England Medical Center where she was informed that she had suffered a lower back strain. Id. She also explained that she had attempted to return to work but had quit her job after two weeks because of pain that required her to sit down after prolonged periods of standing. Id., at 12.
Plaintiff testified that she suffers constant pain that has remained essentially unchanged since the date of her fall. Id., at 13-15. She indicated that this pain bothers her when she walks, stands, sits or lifts anything that weighs more than five pounds. Id., at 15-17. She also explained that she does no housework, very rarely cooks for herself and avoids climbing the stairs in her house when possible. Id., at 23-29. She further stated that she attempts to minimize the pain with rest and that she takes Tylenol or uses heating pads to relieve the pain. Id., at 18. Nonetheless, plaintiff admitted that her chiropractor, Dr. Alfano, has never prescribed any pain medication for her condition. Id. She testified that she receives treatment from Dr. Alfano at least twice a month, id., at 20, but claims that none of this treatment has ever provided her any real relief from the pain. Id., at 35.
2. Testimony of the Vocational Expert
Benjamin Leibowitz, a counseling psychologist employed by the Social Security Administration, testified as the vocational expert ("VE") before the ALJ. (Tr. at 36-38). Based upon his review of a vocational report completed by plaintiff (Rec. at 99-104), the VE characterized plaintiff's past employment in retail stores, in a fast food restaurant, and in her husband's hardware store as "semiskilled". (Tr. at 36). In terms of exertional demands, Mr. Leibowitz testified that plaintiff's work in the department store was of medium exertional level while plaintiff's other employment had involved only light exertional demands. (Tr. at 37). The VE further opined that cashier's jobs in the national economy are generally light in terms of their exertional requirements. Id. Finally, the VE stated that the work skills acquired through employment as a cashier are not transferable to other jobs, as they are indigenous to cashiering. (Tr. at 37-38).
A. Standard of Review
Under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), a claimant is entitled to judicial review of a final determination made by the Secretary following an administrative hearing. The district court is bound by the Secretary's findings of fact if those findings are supported by "substantial evidence" from the record as viewed in its entirety. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); 1383(c)(3); Early v. Heckler, 743 F.2d 1002, 1007 (3d Cir 1984). The Supreme Court has defined "substantial evidence" to be "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 28 L. Ed. 2d 842, 91 S. Ct. 1420 (1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229, 83 L. Ed. 126, 59 S. Ct. 206 (1938)); Lewis v. Califano, 616 F.2d 73, 76 (3d Cir. 1980). However, substantial evidence "does not mean a large or considerable amount of evidence . . .". Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552, 565, 101 L. Ed. 2d 490, 108 S. Ct. 2541 (1988). "Substantial evidence" is "more than a mere scintilla, but may be less than a preponderance". Woody v. Secretary of HHS, 859 F.2d 1156, 1159 (3d Cir. 1988).
Further, where evidence in the record is susceptible to more than one rational interpretation, the court must endorse the Secretary's conclusion. Sample v. Schweiker, 694 F.2d 639, 642 (9th Cir. 1982). The court must accept the Secretary's findings if supported by substantial evidence, and is, therefore, not empowered to conduct a de novo review. See Cotter v. Harris, 642 F.2d 700, 704 (3d Cir. 1981). The court, however, still "retains a responsibility to scrutinize the entire record and to reverse or remand if the Secretary's decision is not supported by substantial evidence." Smith v. Califano, 637 F.2d 968, 970 (3d Cir. 1981). The ALJ is duty-bound to analyze all the relevant evidence in the record and must provide adequate explanations for disregarding or rejecting any portion of the record. Brewster v. Heckler, 786 F.2d 581, 584-585 (3d Cir. 1986); Cotter, 642 F.2d at 704-707; Dobrowolsky v. Califano, 606 F.2d 403, 407 (3d Cir. 1979).
B. Statutory Framework for Entitlement to Disability Benefits
To qualify for disability benefits under the Social Security Act, a claimant's disability must commence at a time when he or she meets the insured status requirements for entitlement to such benefits. Kane v. Heckler, 776 F.2d 1130, 1131, n.1 (3d Cir. 1985).
The claimant must then establish a medically determinable physical or mental impairment which prevents the claimant from engaging in any substantial gainful activity. This impairment must be of the sort that can be expected to result in death or last for a statutory period of at least twelve months. 42 U.S.C. § 416(i); § 423(d)(1)(A). In addition, the Act provides that an individual "shall be determined to be under a disability only if his physical or mental impairment . . . is of such severity that he 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. § 423(d)(2)(A).
The following five-prong test, as set forth in the relevant guidelines, is employed to determine whether a claimant is disabled and thus eligible to receive disability benefits:
(1) An individual who is working and engaging in substantial gainful employment will not be found to be disabled regardless of medical findings (20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b));