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Celentano v. Saul

United States District Court, D. Delaware

August 14, 2019

ANDREW M. SAUL[1], Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant


          MaLachy E. Mannion United States District Judge.

         The above-captioned action is one seeking review of a decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Commissioner”) denying the plaintiff's applications for Social Security Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI 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. 12, Doc. 14). For the reasons set forth below, the plaintiff's motion will be denied and the defendant's motion will be granted. Thus, the court will affirm the Commissioner's decision.

         I. BACKGROUND[2]

         Disability 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 meets the insured status requirements of the Act through December 31, 2020. In order to establish entitlement to disability insurance benefits, the plaintiff was required to establish that she 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).

         The plaintiff was born on March 26, 1970, and was 44 years old, defined as a younger individual, on her alleged disability onset date. The plaintiff has a high school education and is able to communicate in English. Her past work includes positions as an auto assembler, line cook and school bus driver. The plaintiff alleges that June 13, 2014, she became disabled and unable to work.

         The plaintiff protectively filed a claim for DIB on June 25, 2014, and a claim for SSI on June 30, 2014, alleging disability commencing on June 13, 2014 in both applications. The agency initially denied the plaintiff's applications on August 26, 2014. The plaintiff filed a request for reconsideration and, on March 20, 2015, the agency denied her request. The plaintiff then requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), which was held on January 18, 2017. The plaintiff was represented by counsel at her hearing. In addition to the plaintiff's testimony, the ALJ heard the testimony of a vocational expert (“VE”).

         The ALJ issued a decision on March 10, 2017, finding that the plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Act at any time from June 13, 2014, the alleged onset date of disability, through the date of his decision. The plaintiff filed a request for review and, on September 20, 2017, the Appeals Council denied her request for review, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. Since the plaintiff exhausted her administrative remedies, she initiated the present action on November 6, 2017, appealing the final decision of defendant. (Doc. 1).


         When 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).

         To 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. §432(d)(1)(A). Furthermore,

[a]n individual shall be determined to be under a disability only if [her] physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that [s]he is not only unable to do h[er] previous work but cannot, considering [her] 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 [s]he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for [her], or whether [s]he would be hired if [s]he applied for work. For purposes of the preceding sentence (with respect to any individual), ‘work which exists in the national economy' means work which exists in significant numbers either in the region where such individual lives or in several regions of the country.

42 U.S.C. §423(d)(2)(A).

         In the present case, there are cross-motions for summary judgment. “In Social Security cases, the substantial evidence standard applies to motions for summary judgment brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c).” Antoniolo v. Colvin, 208 F.Supp.3d 587, 595 (D.Del. 2016) (citing Woody v. Sec'y of the Dep't of Health & Human Servs., 859 F.2d 1156, 1159 (3d Cir.1988)).

         III. DISABILITY ...

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