United States District Court, D. New Jersey
OPINION [DKT., 1]
RENÉE MARIE BUMB UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court upon an appeal by Plaintiff
Gina Pronchick (the "Plaintiff") of the final
determination of the Commissioner of Social Security (the
"Commissioner") denying Plaintiff's application
for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") and
social security supplemental income ("SSI") for the
period from May 31, 2003 to December 31, 2006 (the
“Relevant Period”). For the reasons set forth
below, the Court vacates the decision of the Administrative
Law Judge ("ALJ") and remands for proceedings
consistent with this Opinion.
Social Security Act defines "disability" as the
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 twelve months." 42 U.S.C. §
1382c(a)(3)(A). The Act further states that:
[A]n individual shall be determined to be under a disability
only if [her] physical or mental impairment or impairments
are of such severity that [she] is not only unable to do her
previous work but cannot, considering [her] age, education,
and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial
gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless
of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which
[she] lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for
[her], or whether [she] he would be hired if [she] applied
42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).
Commissioner has promulgated a five-step, sequential analysis
for evaluating a claimant's disability, as outlined in 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v). In Plummer v.
Apfel, the Third Circuit described the
Commissioner's inquiry at each step of this analysis, as
In step one, the Commissioner must determine whether the
claimant is currently engaging in substantial gainful
activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a). If a claimant is
found to be engaged in substantial activity, the disability
claim will be denied. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S.
137, 140, 107 S.Ct. 2287, 96 L.Ed.2d 119 (1987).
In step two, the Commissioner must determine whether the
claimant is suffering from a severe impairment. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(c). If the claimant fails to show that her
impairments are "severe, " she is ineligible for
In step three, the Commissioner compares the medical evidence
of the claimant's impairment to a list of impairments
presumed severe enough to preclude any gainful work. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). If a claimant does not suffer from
a listed impairment or its equivalent, the analysis proceeds
to steps four and five.
Step four requires the ALJ to consider whether the claimant
retains the residual functional capacity to perform her past
relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(d). The claimant
bears the burden of demonstrating an inability to return to
her past relevant work. Adorno v. Shalala, 40 F.3d
43, 46 (3d Cir. 1994). If the claimant is unable to resume
her former occupation, the evaluation moves to the final
At this [fifth] stage, the burden of production shifts to the
Commissioner, who must demonstrate the claimant can perform
other available work in order to deny a claim of disability.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(f). The ALJ must show there are
other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national
economy which the claimant can perform, consistent with her
medical impairments, age, education, past work experience,
and residual functional capacity. The ALJ must analyze the
cumulative effect of all the claimant's impairments in
determining whether she is capable of performing work and is
not disabled. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1523. The ALJ will
often seek the assistance of a vocational expert at this
fifth step. see Podedworny v. Harris, 745 F.2d 210,
218 (3d Cir. 1984).
Plummer v. Apfel, 186 F.3d 422, 428 (3d Cir. 1999).
Court recites only the facts that are necessary to its
determination on appeal, which is narrow.
Brief Medical History
Plaintiff was born on June 11, 1966 and was 36 years old on
the alleged date of disability onset, May 1, 2003.
(Administrative Record “R.” at 65). The Plaintiff
has past relevant work history as a typist and secretary. (R.
at 40, 42, 43, 44, 45). At the time of the alleged onset,
however, she was a stay at home mother. (R. at 45).
Plaintiff lists in her Initial Disability Determination
Explanation several ailments including joint pain, fevers,
dizzy spells, rash, nausea, fatigue and Lupus. (R. at 65).
She testified that that during the Relevant
Period she suffered from a combination of
weakness in her hands, stiffness in her joints, fatigue, and
nausea, which required her to lie down for long periods of
time. (R. at 45). Also, during this time, the Plaintiff was
pregnant twice. (R. at 169). During the Relevant Period, the
Plaintiff had only three non-pregnancy related visits to her
Primary Care Physician. (R. at 423). During this period, she
found it difficult to stand for long periods of time.
years after the Relevant Period, in 2008, the Plaintiff was
diagnosed with “probable” Lupus on a serologic
series, but “unconfirmed on clinical grounds.”
(R. at 355, 535). As of 2009, her Lupus was being treated
with Plaquenil. (R. at 407). The Plaintiff's Lupus
symptoms and treatments were ongoing as of the date of her
hearing before the ALJ, January 9, 2015. (R. at 33).
Treating Physician's Opinions and ...