United States District Court, D. New Jersey, Camden Vicinage
& FRANKEL, P.A. Richard L. Frankel, Esq.; Kathryne H.
Pope, Esq. Cherry Hill, Counsel for Plaintiff Sharon Glass.
SECURITY ADMINISTRATION, OFFICE OF THE GENERAL COUNSEL By:
Anne von Scheven, Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Counsel for
the Commissioner of Social Security.
RENÉE MARIE BUMB, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
matter comes before the Court upon an appeal by Plaintiff
Sharon Glass (“Plaintiff”), seeking judicial
review of the final determination of the Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration (the
“Commissioner”), which denied Plaintiff's
application for social security disability benefits. For the
reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's determination
will be AFFIRMED.
December 9, 2013, Plaintiff protectively filed applications
for disability insurance benefits under Title II and
supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Social
Security Act, alleging a severe disability, due to injuries
to her right thumb, described as a partial collateral
ligament disruption and post-trigger thumb release, with an
Alleged Onset Date (“AOD”) of June 23, 2013.
claim was initially denied on July 29, 2014, and again upon
reconsideration on November 19, 2014. On February 7, 2017,
Plaintiff testified at an administrative hearing held before
Administrative Law Judge Kenneth Bossong (the
“ALJ”). At the hearing, Plaintiff was represented
by her attorneys, David S. Bross, Esq. and Richard L.
Frankel, Esq. The ALJ also heard testimony from a vocational
expert, Gary A. Young.
6, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's
claim for benefits, based upon his finding that Plaintiff was
not disabled and could perform work in representative
occupations, such as locker room attendant, security guard,
or an office clerical worker/helper. [R.P. at 18]. On August
21, 2018, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review, rendering the ALJ's decision as final.
Plaintiff now seeks this Court's review pursuant to 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
reviewing an ALJ's final decision regarding disability
benefits, a court must uphold the ALJ's factual decisions
if they are supported by “substantial evidence.”
Hess v. Comm'r Soc. Sec., 931 F.3d 198, n. 10
(3d Cir. 2019); 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)); Albert Einstein
Med. Ctr. v. Sebelius, 566 F.3d 368, 372 (3d Cir. 2009).
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. Hess, 931 F.3d at n. 10
(citing Chandler v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 667
F.3d 356, 359 (3d Cir. 2011)).
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). The claimant bears the
burden of proof at steps one through four, and the
Commissioner of Social Security at step five. Hess,
931 F.3d at 201 (citing Smith v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., 631 F.3d 632, 634 (3d Cir. 2010). Recently in
Hess, 931 F.3d at 201-02, the Third Circuit
described the ALJ's role in the Commissioner's
inquiry at each step of this analysis:
At step one, the ALJ determines whether the claimant is
performing “substantial gainful activity.” 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). If
he is, he is not disabled. Id. Otherwise, the ALJ
moves on to step two.
At step two, the ALJ considers whether the claimant has any
“severe medically determinable physical or mental
impairment” that meets certain regulatory requirements.
Id. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii),
416.920(a)(4)(ii). A “severe impairment” is one
that “significantly limits [the claimant's]
physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities.” Id. §§ 404.1520(c),
416.920(c). If the claimant lacks such an impairment, he is
not disabled. Id. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii),
416.920(a)(4)(ii). If he has such an impairment, the ALJ
moves on to step three.
At step three, the ALJ decides “whether the
claimant's impairments meet or equal the requirements of
an impairment listed in the regulations[.]”
Smith, 631 F.3d at 634. If the claimant's
impairments do, he is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If they do not, the
ALJ moves on to step four.
At step four, the ALJ assesses the claimant's
“residual functional capacity”
(“RFC”) and whether he can perform his
“past relevant work.” Id. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). A claimant's
“[RFC] is the most [he] can still do despite [his]
limitations.” Id. §§ 404.1545(a)(1),
416.945(a)(1). If the claimant can perform his past relevant
work despite his limitations, he is not disabled.
Id. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv),
416.920(a)(4)(iv). If he cannot, the ALJ moves on to step
At step five, the ALJ examines whether the claimant
“can make an adjustment to other work[, ]”
considering his “[RFC, ] . . . age, education, and work
experience [.]” Id. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v). That examination
typically involves “one or more hypothetical questions
posed by the ALJ to [a] vocational expert.”
Podeworny v. Harris, 745 F.2d 210, 218 (3d Cir.
1984). If the claimant can make an adjustment to other work,
he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
416.920(a)(4)(v). If he cannot, he is disabled.
Court recites only the facts that are necessary to its
determination on appeal, which is narrow. Plaintiff, who was
born on May 11, 1970, was 43 years old on the AOD and 46
years old at the time of her administrative hearing.
See Plaintiff's Brief Pursuant to Local Rule 9.1
(“Pl.'s Br.”)[Dkt. No. 9], at 2. Plaintiff
meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security
Act through ...