United States District Court, D. New Jersey
LANGTON LANGTON & ALTER, ESQS ON BEHALF OF PLAINTIFF
MARIE ADAMS SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION OFFICE OF THE
GENERAL COUNSEL ON BEHALF OF DEFENDANT
B. FITZSIMMONS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Lesley Margaret Del Grippo brings this action pursuant to
Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 42
U.S.C. §405(g), seeking review of a final decision of
the Acting Commissioner of Social Security who denied her
application for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security
Act, 42 U.S.C. §401 et seq. (“the Act”).
Plaintiff has moved to reverse the case and/or remand for a
rehearing. The Commissioner has moved to affirm.
reasons that follow, the Commissioner's decision is
September 11, 2012, Ms. Del Grippo filed a Title XVI
application for SSI with an alleged onset date of January 6,
2012, alleging disability due to “seizure disorder,
anxiety disorder and possible hepatitis
C.” [Certified Transcript of the Record,
Compiled on January 6, 2017, Doc. #9 (hereinafter
“Tr.”) 15, 86]. Her SSI claim was denied
initially on February 26, 2013, and upon reconsideration on
August 29, 2013. [Tr. 86-100, 101-115].
March 12, 2015, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”)
Sheila Walters held a hearing, at which plaintiff appeared
with an attorney and testified. [Tr. 39-78]. Vocational
Expert (“VE”) Amy Peiser Leopold also testified
at the hearing. [Tr. 65-77, 215]. On May 18, 2015, ALJ
Walters found that plaintiff was not disabled, and denied her
claim. [Tr. 12-29]. Plaintiff filed a timely request for
review of the hearing decision on July 23, 2015. [Tr. 7-11].
On September 19, 2016, the Appeals Council denied review,
thereby rendering ALJ West's decision the final decision
of the Commissioner. [Tr. 1-6]. The case is now ripe for
review under 42 U.S.C. §405(g).
represented by counsel, timely filed this action for review
and moves to reverse and/or remand the Commissioner's
STANDARD OF REVIEW
standard of review for this Court is whether the ALJ's
decision is based on substantial evidence in the record as a
whole. 42 U.S.C. §405(g). Substantial evidence is
evidence that a reasonable mind would accept as adequate to
support a conclusion; it is more than a “mere
scintilla.” Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v.
NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). “Overall, the
substantial evidence standard is a deferential standard of
review.” Jones v. Barnhart, 364 F.3d 501, 503
(3d Cir. 2004); see Woody v. Sec'y of Health &
Human Servs., 859 F.2d 1156, 1159 (3d Cir. 1988).
“Further, even if the Secretary's factual findings
are supported by substantial evidence, this court may review
whether the administrative determination was made upon
correct legal standards.” Curtin v. Harris,
793 (D.N.J. 1981).
reviewing court “must consider the (1) objective
medical facts; (2) diagnoses and medical opinions of
examining physicians; (3) subjective evidence of pain and
disability as described by plaintiff and corroborated by
others who have observed him; and (4) plaintiff's age,
educational background and work history.” Id.,
508 F.Supp. at 793. It “need[s] from the ALJ not only
an expression of the evidence s/he considered which supports
the result, but also some indication of the evidence which
was rejected.” Cotter v. Harris, 642 F.2d 700,
705 (3d Cir. 1981); see Burnett v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec. Admin., 220 F.3d 112, 121 (3d Cir.
2000)(“Although the ALJ may weigh the credibility of
the evidence, he must give some indication of the evidence
which he rejects and his reason(s) for discounting such
evidence.”)(citing Plummer v. Apfel, 186 F.3d
422, 429 (3d. Cir. 1999)). “In the absence of such an
indication the reviewing court cannot tell if significant
probative evidence was not credited or simply ignored.”
important to note that in reviewing the ALJ's decision,
this Court's role is not to start from scratch. The scope
of review is limited to determining whether the Commissioner
applied the correct legal standards and whether the record,
as a whole, contains substantial evidence to support the
Commissioner's findings of fact. See Schaudeck v.
Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 181 F.3d 429, 431 (3d
Cir. 1999) (noting that the circuit court has plenary review
of all legal issues, and reviews the administrative law
judge's findings of fact to determine whether they are
supported by substantial evidence); Plummer, 186
F.3d at 427. “[W]hether there is substantial evidence
supporting the appellant's view is not the question here;
rather, we must decide whether substantial evidence supports
the ALJ's decision.” Bonet ex rel.
T.B. v. Colvin, 523 Fed.Appx. 58, 59 (2d Cir.
2013)(citations omitted); Hartranft v. Apfel, 181
F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir. 1999)(“We will not set the
Commissioner's decision aside if it is supported by
substantial evidence, even if we would have decided the
factual inquiry differently.”); Simmonds v.
Heckler, 807 F.2d 54, 58 (3d Cir. 1986)(“While
there is other evidence in the record that could support a
finding of disability based on pain, our inquiry is not
whether the ALJ could have reasonably made a different
finding based on this record. Rather, we must review whether
the ALJ's actual findings are supported by substantial
SSA LEGAL STANDARD
the Social Security Act, every individual who is under a
disability is entitled to disability insurance benefits.
considered disabled under the Act and therefore entitled to
benefits, Ms. Del Grippo must demonstrate that she is unable
to work after a date specified “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. §423(d)(1)(A). Such
impairment or impairments must be “of such severity
that [s]he is not only unable to do h[er] previous work but
cannot, considering h[er] 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); see also 20 C.F.R. §404.1520(c)
(requiring that the impairment “significantly limits
your physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities” to be considered
is a familiar five-step analysis used to determine if a
person is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. §404.1520(a)(4); 20
C.F.R. §416.920(a)(4). Under this process, the ALJ must
sequentially determine: (1) whether the claimant is engaged
in substantial gainful activity; (2) whether the claimant has
a severe impairment; (3) whether the claimant's
impairment meets or equals a listed impairment; (4) whether
the claimant is able to do his or her past relevant work; and
(5) whether the claimant is able to do any other work,
considering his or her age, education, work experience and
residual functional capacity (“RFC”). 20 C.F.R.
§404.1520(a)(4)(i-v); 20 C.F.R.
steps three and four, the ALJ must also assess a
claimant's RFC. RFC is defined as “that which an
individual is still able to do despite the limitations caused
by his or her impairment(s).” Burnett, 220 F.3d at 121
(citations omitted); 20 C.F.R. §404.1545(a)(1)
(“Your residual functional capacity is the most you can
still do despite your limitations. We will assess your
residual functional capacity based on all the relevant
evidence in your case record.”); see also 20 C.F.R.
§416.945(a)(1). In making this assessment, the ALJ
considers all of the claimant's medically determinable
impairments, including any non-severe impairments identified
by the ALJ at step two of his or her analysis. 20 C.F.R.
disability determination involves shifting burdens of proof.
“The claimant bears the burden of proof for steps one,
two, and four of this test.” Sykes v. Apfel,
228 F.3d 259, 263 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing Bowen v.
Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n. 5 (1987)). Neither party
bears the burden of proof at step three. Id. 228
F.3d at 263 n.2. If the claimant satisfies this burden, then
the Commissioner must show at step five that jobs exist in
the national economy that the claimant can perform. Mason
v. Shalala, 994 F.2d 1058, 1064 (3d Cir. 1993);
Plummer, 186 F.3d at 428654747. The ultimate burden
of proving disability under the Act lies with the claimant.
See 42 U.S.C. §423(d)(5)(A); 20 C.F.R. §416.912(a).
THE ALJ'S DECISION
the above-described five step evaluation process, ALJ Walters
concluded that plaintiff was not disabled under the Social
Security Act. [Tr. 12-29]. At step one, the ALJ found that
plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
during the period from ...