United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage
TIMOTHY W. HUSSEY, Plaintiff,
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, Defendant.
CHERMOL & FISHMAN, LLC By: Samuel Fishman, Esq. Counsel
for Timothy W. Hussey.
SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, OFFICE OF THE GENERAL COUNSEL By:
Dina White Griffin, Special Assistant United States Attorney
Counsel for Commissioner, Social Security Administration.
RENÉE MARIE BUMB, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter comes before the Court upon an appeal by Plaintiff
Timothy W. Hussey (the “Plaintiff”) of the final
determination of the Commissioner of Social Security (the
“Commissioner”) denying Plaintiff's
application for social security disability benefits. For the
reasons set forth below, the Court vacates the decision of
the Administrative Law Judge (the “ALJ”) and
remands for proceedings consistent with this Opinion.
December 6, 2013, Plaintiff filed an application for
disability insurance benefits, alleging disability since
August 1, 2012 due to residuals from an earlier ankle injury.
Plaintiff's claim was initially denied on March 25, 2014,
and again denied upon reconsideration on May 8, 2014. [Record
of Proceedings (“R.P.”), p. 35-44]. At a formal
hearing on August 19, 2016, the ALJ heard testimony from
Plaintiff and his attorney.
the formal hearing, the ALJ issued a decision on September
21, 2016, which denied Plaintiff's claim based on the
ALJ's determination that Plaintiff did not suffer from a
“severe impairment or combination of
impairments.” [R.P., p. 35-44]. The Appeals Council
denied Plaintiff's request for review, thus rendering the
ALJ's decision as final. [R.P., p. 1-4]. Plaintiff now
seeks this Court's review.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
reviewing a final decision of an ALJ with regard to
disability benefits, a court must uphold the ALJ's
factual decisions if they are supported by “substantial
evidence.” Knepp v. Apfel, 204 F.3d 78, 83 (3d
Cir. 2000); 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3).
“Substantial evidence” means “‘more
than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.'” Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Cons. Edison Co. v.
NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)); Plummer v.
Apfel, 186 F.3d 422, 427 (3d Cir. 1999).
addition to the “substantial evidence” inquiry,
the court must also determine whether the ALJ applied the
correct legal standards. See Friedberg v. Schweiker,
721 F.2d 445, 447 (3d Cir. 1983); Sykes v. Apfel,
228 F.3d 259, 262 (3d Cir. 2000). The Court's review of
legal issues is plenary. Sykes, 228 F.3d at 262
(citing Schaudeck v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 181
F.3d 429, 431 (3d Cir. 1999)).
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,
[A]n individual shall be determined to be under a disability
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, regardless
of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work.
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, 186
F.3d at 428, the Third Circuit ...