APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY (D.C. Civil No. 08-cv-02875) District Judge: Honorable Dennis M. Cavanaugh
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Barry, Circuit Judge
Submitted Under Third Circuit LAR 34.1(a) November 16, 2010
Before: BARRY, CHAGARES and VANASKIE, Circuit Judges
Wayne Smith appeals from an Order of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey affirming a decision of the Commissioner of Social Security. That decision denied Smith's claims for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under the Social Security Act. Smith contends that the hypothetical question posed by the administrative law judge (―ALJ‖) to the vocational expert did not sufficiently convey all of Smith's limitations, and that as a result, the Commissioner's decision was not supported by substantial evidence. We will affirm.
I. Jurisdiction and Standard of Review
The District Court had jurisdiction under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). We have appellate jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291. Our review is limited to determining whether there was substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision to deny benefits. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). ―Substantial evidence has been defined as more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.‖ Reefer v. Barnhart, 326 F.3d 376, 379 (3d Cir. 2003) (internal quotation marks omitted). The Commissioner's findings of fact are binding if they are supported by substantial evidence. Knepp v. Apfel, 204 F.3d 78, 83 (3d Cir. 2000).
An individual is disabled for purposes of the Social Security Act (―SSA‖) only if his ―physical or mental impairment or impairments are 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). In making this determination, an ALJ must perform a five-step, sequential analysis. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. The ALJ must review (1) the claimant's current work activity; (2) the medical severity and duration of the claimant's impairments; (3) whether the claimant's impairments meet or equal the requirements of an impairment listed in the regulations; (4) whether the claimant has the residual functional capacity to return to past relevant work; and (5) if the claimant cannot return to past relevant work, whether he or she can ―make an adjustment to other work‖ in the national economy. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v). The claimant bears the burden of proof at steps one through four, and the Commissioner bears the burden of proof at step five. Poulos v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 474 F.3d 88, 92 (3d Cir. 2007).
Under the Social Security regulations, ―a vocational expert or specialist may offer expert opinion testimony in response to a hypothetical question about whether a person with the physical and mental limitations imposed by the claimant's medical impairment(s) can meet the demands of the claimant's previous work.‖ 20 C.F.R. § 404.1560(b)(2). While ―the ALJ must accurately convey to the vocational expert all of a claimant's credibly established limitations,‖ Rutherford v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546, 554 (3d Cir. 2005), ―[w]e do not require an ALJ to submit to the vocational expert every impairment alleged by a claimant.‖ Id. Thus, the ALJ is bound to convey only those impairments ―that are medically established.‖ Id.