United States District Court, D. New Jersey
C. CECCIII, U.S.D.J.
the Court is Roseanne Ballan's ("Plaintiff) appeal
seeking review of a final determination by the Commissioner
of the Social Security Administration ("Defendant")
denying her application for a period of disability and
Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") pursuant to
Title II of the Social Security Act ("SSA"). This
matter is decided without oral argument pursuant to Federal
Rule of Civil Procedure 78. For the reasons set forth below,
the decision of the Administrative Law Judge
("ALJ") is vacated and the case is remanded for
further administrative proceedings.
an adult female, was born on February 9, 1965. (Tr. at
Plaintiff possesses a ninth grade education, (id. at
33), and has previously worked as a kitchen aide,
(id. at 35). In June 2010, Plaintiff injured her
right knee by hitting it against an object while at work.
(Id. at 37). Within a few months of that injury,
Plaintiff began experiencing significant pain in her left
foot and ankle. (Id. at 38). Plaintiffs ankle
symptoms are believed to be a result of overcompensation
following the injury to her opposite knee. (Id. at
244). Plaintiff testified that her pain from the injury has
prevented her from working. (Id. at 37).
Additionally, Plaintiff suffers from obesity. (Id.
August 16, 2013, Plaintiff applied for disability benefits as
a result of her ongoing knee and ankle pain. (Id. at
158-59). On October 17, 2013, Plaintiffs application was
initially denied. (Id. at 100). On December 23,
2013, the application was once again denied on
reconsideration. (Id. at 106). Plaintiff requested
an ALJ hearing, which was conducted on July 24, 2015.
(Id. at 28-83). On October 19, 2015, the ALJ issued
her opinion concluding that Plaintiff was not disabled within
the meaning of Sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the SSA.
(Id. at 16-24). On November 18, 2015, Plaintiff
sought review by the Appeals Council. (Id. at
200-204). The Appeals Council denied review on May 04, 2017.
(Id. at 1). Plaintiff instituted this action seeking
review of the ALJ decision on June 19, 2017.
Standard of Review
Court has jurisdiction to review the Commissioner's
decision under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3).
The Court is not "permitted to re-weigh the evidence or
impose [its] own factual determinations," but must give
deference to the administrative findings. Chandler v.
Comm 'r of Soc. Sec, 667 F.3d 356, 359 (3d Cir.
2011); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Nevertheless, the Court must "scrutinize the record as a
whole to determine whether the conclusions reached are
rational" and supported by substantial evidence.
Gober v. Matthews, 574 F.2d 772, 776 (3d Cir. 1978)
(citations omitted). Substantial evidence is more than a mere
scintilla, and is "such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion." Chandler, 667 F.3d at 359 (citing
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)). If
the factual record is adequately developed, substantial
evidence "may be 'something less than the weight of
the evidence, and the possibility of drawing two inconsistent
conclusions from the evidence does not prevent an
administrative agency's finding from being supported by
substantial evidence.'" Daniels v. Astrue,
No. 08-1676, 2009 WL 1011587, at *2 (M.D. Pa. Apr. 15, 2009)
(quoting Consolo v. Fed. Mar. Comm 'n, 383 U.S.
607, 620 (1966)). In other words, under this deferential
standard of review, the Court may not set aside the ALJ's
decision merely because it would have come to a different
conclusion. Cruz v. Comm 'r of Soc. Sec, 244
Fed.Appx. 475, 479 (3d Cir. 2007) (citing Hartranft v.
Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir. 1999)).
order to be eligible for benefits under the SSA, a plaintiff
must show she is disabled by demonstrating 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 twelve months." 42 U.S.C. §§
423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A). Taking into account the
plaintiffs age, education, and work experience, disability
will be evaluated by the plaintiffs ability to engage in her
previous work or any other form of substantial gainful
activity existing in the national economy. 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B). A person is
disabled for SSA purposes only if his physical or mental
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. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).
regarding disability will be made individually and will be
"based on evidence adduced at a hearing." Sykes
v. Apfel,228 F.3d 259, 262 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing
Heckler v. Campbell,461 U.S. 458, 467 (1983)).
Congress has established the type of evidence necessary to
prove the existence of a disabling impairment by defining a
physical or mental impairment as "an impairment that
results from anatomical, physiological, or psychological
abnormalities which are demonstrable by ...