United States District Court, D. New Jersey
MCNULTY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
Nelson Arreizaga brings this action pursuant to 45 U.S.C.
§ 405(g) and § 1383(c)(3) to review a final
decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
("Commissioner") denying his claims to a period of
Disability-Insurance Benefits ("DIB") under Title
II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-34.
For the reasons set forth below, the decision of the
Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") is affirmed.
Arreizaga seeks to reverse a decision that he did not meet
the Social Security Act's definition of disability. Mr.
Arreizaga originally applied for DIB on November 4, 2013. The
claim was denied initially and upon reconsideration on July
9, 2014. (R. 14).
hearing was held before an ALJ on August 20, 2014. (R. 14).
Both the claimant and a vocational expert ("VE")
testified. (Transcript at R. 27-71). On August 12, 2015, the
ALJ rendered a decision denying benefits. (R. 11-26) On
September 25, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Mr.
Arreizaga's request for review of the ALJ's decision,
rendering it the final decision of the Commissioner. (R.
Arreizaga appealed to this Court, asserting that the ALJ
erred in finding that he was not disabled from an onset date
of May 2, 2013 through December 31, 2017. The case was
reassigned to a Magistrate Judge (DE 16), and then
transferred back to me for decision on February 4, 2019. (DE
qualify for DIB (or Supplemental Security Income), a claimant
must meet income and resource limitations and show that he is
unable to engage in substantial gainful activity by reason of
any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that
can be expected to result in death or that 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), 1382,
1382c(a)(3)(A), (B); 20 C.F.R. § 416.905(a); see
Rlig v. Comm'rSoc. Sec, 570 Fed.Appx. 262, 264 (3d
Cir. 2014); Diaz v. Comm'rof Soc. Sec, 577 F.3d
500, 503 (3d Cir. 2009).
The Five-Step Process and This Court's Standard of
the authority of the Social Security Act, the Social Security
Administration has established a five-step evaluation process
for determining whether a claimant is entitled to benefits.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. This Court's
review necessarily incorporates a determination of whether
the ALJ properly followed the five-step process prescribed by
regulation. The steps may be briefly summarized as follows:
One: Determine whether the claimant has engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the onset date of the
alleged disability. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(b),
416.920(b). If not, move to step two.
Two: Determine if the claimant's alleged
impairment, or combination of impairments, is
"severe." Id. §§ 404.1520(c),
416.920(c). If the claimant has a severe impairment, move to
Three: Determine whether the impairment meets or
equals the criteria of any impairment found in the Listing of
Impairments. 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1, Pt. A.
(Those Part A criteria are purposely set at a high level to
identify clear cases of disability without further analysis.)
If so, the claimant is automatically eligible to receive
benefits; if not, move to step four. Id.
§§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d).
Four: Determine whether, despite any severe
impairment, the claimant retains the Residual Functional
Capacity ("RFC") to perform past relevant work.
Id. §§ 404.1520(e)-(fj, 416.920(e)-(f). If
not, move to step five.
Five: At this point, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner to demonstrate that the claimant, considering
her age, education, work experience, and RFC, is capable of
performing jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g),
416.920(g); see Poulos v. Comm'rof Soc. Sec, 474
F.3d 88, 91-92 (3d Cir. 2007). If so, benefits will be
denied; if not, they will be awarded.
all legal issues, this Court conducts a plenary review.
See Schaudeck v. Comm'rof Soc. Sec, 181 F.3d
429, 431 (3d Cir. 1999). As to factual findings, this Court
adheres to the ALJ's findings, as long as they are
supported by substantial evidence. Jones v. Bamhart,
364 F.3d 501, 503 (3d Cir. 2004) (citing 42 U.S.C. §
405(g)). Where facts are disputed, this Court will
"determine whether the administrative record contains
substantial evidence supporting the findings." Sykes
v. Apfel, 228 F.3d 259, 262 (3d Cir. 2000).
"Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a
reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion." Zimsak v. Colvin, 777 F.3d 607,
610 (3d Cir. 2014) (internal quotation marks and citation
omitted). Substantial evidence "is more than a mere
scintilla but may be somewhat less than a preponderance of
the evidence." Id., (internal quotation marks
and citation omitted).
[I]n evaluating whether substantial evidence supports the
ALJ's findings ... leniency should be shown in
establishing the claimant's disability, and ... the
Secretary's responsibility to rebut it should be strictly
construed. Due regard for the beneficent purposes of the
legislation requires that a more tolerant standard be used in
this administrative proceeding than is applicable in a
typical suit in a court of record where the adversary system
Reefer v. Barnhart, 326 F.3d 376, 379 (3d Cir. 2003)
(internal quotation marks and citations omitted). When there
is substantial evidence to support the ALJ's factual
findings, however, this Court must abide by them. See
Jones, 364 F.3d at 503 (citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(g));
Zimsak, 777 F.3d at 610-11 ("[W]e are mindful
that we must not substitute our own judgment for that of the
Court may, under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), affirm,
modify, or reverse the Commissioner's decision, or it may
remand the matter to the Commissioner for a rehearing.
Podedwomy v. Harris, 745 F.2d 210, 221 (3d Cir.
1984); Bordes v. Comm'r of Soc Sec, 235
Fed.Appx. 853, 865-66 (3d Cir. 2007).
is proper if the record is incomplete, or if there is a lack
of substantial evidence to support a definitive finding on
one or more steps of the five-step inquiry. See
Podedwomy, 745 F.2d at 221-22. Remand is also proper if
the ALJ's decision lacks adequate reasoning or support
for its conclusions, or if it contains illogical or
contradictory findings. See Burnett v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sea, 220 F.3d 112, 119-20 (3d Cir. 2000). It is also
proper to remand where the ALJ's findings are not the
product of a complete review which "explicitly weigh[s]
all relevant, probative and available evidence" in the
record. Adomo v. Shalala, 40 F.3d 43, 48 (3d Cir.
1994) (internal quotation marks omitted).
The ALJ's Decision
Ricardy Damille followed the five-step process in determining
that Mr. Arreizaga was not disabled beginning May 2, 2013
through December 31, 2017. His findings may be summarized as
one, the ALJ determined that Mr. Arreizaga had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since May 2, 2013, the alleged
onset date. (R. 16).