United States District Court, D. New Jersey
WILLIAM A. SHEEHAN On behalf of Plaintiff
DONNER CHAIT, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, OFFICE OF THE
GENERAL COUNSEL On behalf of Defendant
L. HILLMAN, U.S.D.J.
matter comes before the Court pursuant to Section 205(g) of
the Social Security Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g),
regarding Plaintiff's application for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of
the Social Security Act. 42 U.S.C. § 423, et seq. The
issue before the Court is whether the Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) erred in finding that there was
“substantial evidence” that Plaintiff was not
disabled at any time since her alleged onset date of
disability, October 1, 2011. For the reasons stated below,
this Court will affirm that decision.
BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
30, 2013, Plaintiff, Demi Amanda Arevalo, protectively filed
an application for DIB,  alleging that she became disabled on
October 1, 2011. Plaintiff claims that she can no longer work
in her prior jobs as a packager/handler for food products,
plastics packager, and assembly machine tender because of her
severe impairments of diabetes with neuropathy, hypertension,
arthritis, gall bladder disease, degenerative disc disease of
the lumbar spine, and depression.
initial claim was denied on March 12, 2014 and upon
reconsideration on May 22, 2014. Plaintiff requested a
hearing before an ALJ, which was held on July 6, 2016. The
ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on February 1, 2017.
Plaintiff's Request for Review of Hearing Decision was
denied by the Appeals Council on February 14, 2018, making
the ALJ's February 1, 2017 decision final. Plaintiff
brings this civil action for review of the Commissioner's
Standard of Review
42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Congress provided for judicial
review of the Commissioner's decision to deny a
complainant's application for social security benefits.
Ventura v. Shalala, 55 F.3d 900, 901 (3d Cir. 1995).
A reviewing court must uphold the Commissioner's factual
decisions where they are supported by “substantial
evidence.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3);
Fargnoli v. Massanari, 247 F.3d 34, 38 (3d Cir.
2001); Sykes v. Apfel, 228 F.3d 259, 262 (3d Cir.
2000); Williams v. Sullivan, 970 F.2d 1178, 1182 (3d
Cir. 1992). Substantial evidence means 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)).
evidence means “such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Id. The inquiry is not whether the reviewing court
would have made the same determination, but whether the
Commissioner's conclusion was reasonable. See Brown
v. Bowen, 845 F.2d 1211, 1213 (3d Cir. 1988).
reviewing court has a duty to review the evidence in its
totality. See Daring v. Heckler, 727 F.2d 64, 70 (3d
Cir. 1984). “[A] court must ‘take into account
whatever in the record fairly detracts from its
weight.'” Schonewolf v. Callahan, 972
F.Supp. 277, 284 (D.N.J. 1997) (quoting Willbanks v.
Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 847 F.2d 301,
303 (6th Cir. 1988) (quoting Universal Camera Corp. V.
NLRB, 340 U.S. 474, 488 (1951)).
Commissioner “must adequately explain in the record his
reasons for rejecting or discrediting competent
evidence.” Ogden v. Bowen, 677 F.Supp. 273,
278 (M.D. Pa. 1987) (citing Brewster v. Heckler, 786
F.2d 581 (3d Cir. 1986)). The Third Circuit has held that an
“ALJ must review all pertinent medical evidence and
explain his conciliations and rejections.” Burnett
v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 220 F.3d 112, 122 (3d
Cir. 2000). Similarly, an ALJ must also consider and weigh
all of the non-medical evidence before him. Id.
(citing Van Horn v. Schweiker, 717 F.2d 871, 873 (3d
Cir. 1983)); Cotter v. Harris, 642 F.2d 700, 707 (3d
Third Circuit has held that access to the Commissioner's
reasoning is indeed essential to a meaningful court review:
Unless the [Commissioner] has analyzed all evidence and has
sufficiently explained the weight he has given to obviously
probative exhibits, to say that his decision is supported by
substantial evidence approaches an abdication of the
court's duty to scrutinize the record as a whole to
determine whether the conclusions reached are rational.
Gober v. Matthews, 574 F.2d 772, 776 (3d Cir. 1978).
Although an ALJ, as the fact finder, must consider and
evaluate the medical evidence presented, Fargnoli,
247 F.3d at 42, “[t]here is no requirement that the ALJ
discuss in its opinion every tidbit of evidence included in
the record, ” Hur v. Barnhart, 94 Fed.Appx.
130, 133 (3d Cir. 2004).
terms of judicial review, a district court is not
“empowered to weigh the evidence or substitute its
conclusions for those of the fact-finder.”
Williams, 970 F.2d at 1182. However, apart from the
substantial evidence inquiry, a reviewing court is entitled
to satisfy itself that the Commissioner arrived at his
decision by application of the proper legal standards.
Sykes, 228 F.3d at 262; Friedberg v.
Schweiker, 721 F.2d 445, 447 (3d Cir. 1983); Curtin
v. Harris, 508 F.Supp. 791, 793 (D.N.J. 1981).