United States District Court, D. Delaware
JAMES W. RODKEY, Plaintiff
NANCY BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant
MALACHY E. MANNION UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
above-captioned action is one seeking review of a decision of
the Acting Commissioner of Social Security
(“Commissioner”) denying the plaintiff's
application for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act
(“Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§401-433. The court
has jurisdiction pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g).
Currently before the court are the parties' cross-motions
for summary judgment. (Doc. 11, Doc. 13). For the reasons set
forth below, defendant's motion will be granted and
plaintiff's motion will be denied.
insurance benefits are paid to an individual if that
individual is disabled and “insured, ” that is,
the individual has worked long enough and paid social
security taxes. The last date that a claimant meets the
requirements of being insured is commonly referred to as the
“date last insured.” It is undisputed that
plaintiff met the insured status requirements of the Act
through December 31, 2014. (Tr. 14). In order to establish
entitlement to DIB, the plaintiff was required to establish
that he suffered from a disability on or before that date. 42
U.S.C. §423(a)(1)(A), (c)(1)(B); 20 C.F.R.
§404.131(a); see Matullo v. Bowen, 926 F.2d
240, 244 (3d Cir. 1990).
plaintiff was born on July 7, 1961, (Tr. 37), and was
fifty-three (53) years old, a person “closely
approaching advanced age, ” 20 C.F.R.
§404.1563(c), (d), on his date last insured. (Tr. 70).
The plaintiff has obtained a GED, and his past relevant work
was as a carpenter, construction worker and HVAC installer.
(Tr. 41, 198, 211).
plaintiff protectively filed a claim for DIB on July 17,
2013, alleging disability commencing on December 10, 2010.
(Tr.). The agency denied the plaintiff's application
initially on September 18, 2013, and upon reconsideration on
February 26, 2014. (Tr. 84, 101). The plaintiff requested a
hearing before an ALJ, which was held on October 21, 2015.
plaintiff testified at the hearing before the ALJ. (Tr.
37-56). Also testifying at the hearing was Jennifer Guediri,
a vocational expert (“VE”). Considering the
medical evidence of record, as well as the plaintiff's
testimony, the ALJ posed a hypothetical question to the VE
considering an individual with the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work except the
plaintiff requires a sit/stand option defined as having the
ability to stand and stretch in place following thirty (30)
minutes of sitting, or having the ability to sit after thirty
(30) minutes of standing; the plaintiff can no more than
frequently push and pull with the lower left extremity, can
never climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds and can never
crawl; the plaintiff can occasionally stoop, kneel, balance,
crouch, and climb ramps and stairs; the plaintiff is limited
to not more than frequent reaching in all directions with his
right shoulder, and no more than occasional pushing and
pulling with his bilateral upper extremities; the plaintiff
is to have no more than occasional exposure to vibrations and
hazards such as unprotected heights and moving machinery.
Based on this hypothetical, the VE testified that such a
person would be able to perform work as a gate guard, usher
and counter clerk. (Tr. 25, 57-67).
issued a decision on December 31, 2015, finding that
plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act.
(14-26). The plaintiff filed a request for review, which was
denied by the Appeals Council, making the ALJ's decision
the final decision of the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-3). Since
plaintiff exhausted his administrative remedies, he initiated
the present action on June 19, 2017, appealing the final
decision of the Commissioner. (Doc. 1).
plaintiff appeals the ALJ's determination arguing that
the ALJ did not give legally sufficient good reasons to
reject his treating physician's assessment of his work
related limitations. As relief, the plaintiff seeks to have
the court reverse the Commissioner's decision and remand
his case to the Commissioner for further proceedings.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
reviewing the denial of disability benefits, the court must
determine whether the denial is supported by substantial
evidence. Brown v. Bowen, 845 F.2d 1211, 1213 (3d
Cir. 1988); Johnson v. Commissioner of Social Sec.,
529 F.3d 198, 200 (3d Cir. 2008). Substantial evidence
“does not mean a large or considerable amount of
evidence, but rather such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.”
Pierce v. Underwood, 487 U.S. 552 (1988);
Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 360. (3d Cir.
1999), Johnson, 529 F.3d at 200. It is less than a
preponderance of the evidence but more than a mere scintilla.
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971).
receive disability benefits, the plaintiff must demonstrate
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 12 months.” 42 U.S.C.
[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. For
purposes of the preceding sentence (with respect to any
individual), ‘work which exists in the ...