United States District Court, D. Delaware
JOSEPH V. GOTT, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
before the Court are Plaintiffs motion for summary judgment
(D.I. 9) and Defendant's cross-motion for summary
judgment (D.I. 11). I have reviewed the parties'
briefing. (D.I. 10, 12, 14). For the following reasons, I
will remand the case for further consideration consistent
with this opinion.
action arises from the denial of Plaintiff s claim for
Disability Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-434. Plaintiff filed
his benefits application on December 31, 2014. He alleged
disability beginning December 31, 2012. His application was
denied initially on March 19, 2015, and upon reconsideration
on September 25, 2015. Plaintiff subsequently requested a
hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ").
(Tr. at 13).
held a hearing on July 10, 2017. The ALJ heard testimony from
Plaintiff and a vocational expert. Plaintiff also submitted
written evidence that the ALJ admitted into the record. The
ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiffs request for
Disability Insurance Benefits on August 17, 2017.
(Id. at 13-22). The ALJ found that, through the date
Plaintiff was last insured, he had the following severe
impairments: degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine
and a left thumb injury. (Id. at 16). Upon
consideration of the entire record, the ALJ determined,
[Plaintiff] had the residual functional capacity to perform
light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except he could
occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but never ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds. He could occasionally balance, stoop,
kneel, crouch, and crawl. He could occasionally handle and
finger with the non-dominant left upper extremity. He could
have occasional exposure to extreme cold, vibration, and
(Id.). The vocational expert testified that, in view
of Plaintiff s age, education, work experience, and residual
functional capacity, Plaintiff could perform the requirements
of certain jobs in the national economy. (Id. at
21). Based on the testimony of the vocational expert, the ALJ
found that Plaintiff was not disabled. (Id.).
Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request for review of the
ALJ's decision. (Tr. at 1-6). Plaintiff filed this action
on May 30, 2018.
Commissioner must follow a five-step sequential analysis when
determining if an individual is disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520. The Commissioner must determine whether the
applicant: (1) is engaged in substantial gainful activity;
(2) has a "severe" medical impairment; (3) suffers
from an impairment that is listed in the regulation's
appendix; (4) can still perform past relevant work; and (5)
can perform any other work existing in significant numbers in
the national economy. McCrea v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec, 370 F.3d 357, 360 (3d Cir. 2004) (citing 20 C.F.R.
reviewing court is limited to determining whether the
Commissioner's factual findings are supported by
"substantial evidence." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
"Substantial evidence" is "such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion." Pierce v. Underwood, 487
U.S. 552, 564-65 (1988). In reviewing whether substantial
evidence supports the Commissioner's findings, the court
may not "re-weigh the evidence or impose [its] own
factual determinations." Chandler v. Comm'r
of Soc. Sec, 667 F.3d 356, 359 (3d Cir. 2011). The
reviewing court must defer to the ALJ and affirm the
Commissioner's decision, even if it would have decided
the factual inquiry differently, so long as substantial
evidence supports the decision. Hartranft v. Apfel,
181 F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir. 1999).
reviewing court must also review the ALJ's decision to
determine whether the correct legal standards were applied.
Sykes v. Apfel, 228 F.3d 259, 262 (3d Cir. 2000).
The court's review of legal issues is plenary.
makes three arguments in support of his motion for summary
judgment. First, the ALJ erred by posing a defective
hypothetical question to the vocational expert. Second, the
ALJ erred by determining that Plaintiff had a residual
functional capacity for light work. Third, the ALJ erred in
determining the severity of Plaintiff s impairments.
Defective Hypothetical Question to the ...