GULLACE v. COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY
OPINION. Signed by Judge Freda L. Wolfson on 2/23/2017. (seb)
*NOT FOR PUBLICATION*
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF NEW JERSEY
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, ACTING
COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL
Civ. Action No.: 15-7630 (FLW)
WOLFSON, United States District Judge:
Domenico Gullace (“Plaintiff”) appeals from the final decision of the Acting
Commissioner of Social Security, Carolyn W. Colvin (“Defendant” or “Commissioner”), who
denied Plaintiff disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security (the
“Act”), as well as supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act. After
reviewing the administrative record, the Court finds that the Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ”)
determinations were based on substantial evidence and, accordingly, affirms the decision.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Plaintiff was born on November 19, 1960, and was 49 years old on his alleged disability
onset date of July 1, 2010. See Administrative Record (“A.R.”) at 30. On January 25, 2012,
Plaintiff filed applications for both DIB and SSI. Id. at 168-176. The two applications were
ultimately denied, and Plaintiff requested reconsideration, which was also denied. Id. at 64-85.
Plaintiff then appealed and requested a hearing before an ALJ. Id. at 99-100. On September 17,
2013, the first hearing was held before ALJ Richard West. Id. at 20, 25. After the hearing, the
ALJ proffered interrogatories to a vocational expert, Rocco Meola (“Meola”), and based on his
responses, Plaintiff requested a supplemental hearing, which was held on April 11, 2014. Id. at
51-53. During that hearing, Plaintiff’s counsel was permitted to cross-examine Meola. Id. On
May 7, 2014, the ALJ issued his written decision, finding that Plaintiff was not completely
disabled. Id. at 10-20. Plaintiff appealed that decision to the Appeals Council, which denied his
request for review on August 24, 2015. Id. at 1-6. Having exhausted his administrative remedies,
Plaintiff filed his Complaint in the instant action.
Review of Function and Work Reports
With respect to his work history, Plaintiff was a chef at a catering company from 2001 to
2004. Id. at 204. He then worked as chef at a bar and grill restaurant until 2006. Id. Between
2006 and 2008, Plaintiff owned his own construction company where he remodeled homes. Id.
According to Plaintiff, all of these jobs required him to stand and walk for the vast majority of the
workday. Id. at 204-210. Nevertheless, while Plaintiff does not state what jobs he performed from
2008 through July 1, 2010, his alleged disability onset date, it appears that Plaintiff continued to
work part-time jobs. See, e.g., id. at 259 (Plaintiff’s doctor noted that, in February 2012, Plaintiff
reported that he was working “[s]ummer jobs due to loss of regular job.”).
In his function report, when asked to describe his normal day at that time, Plaintiff stated:
“Go shopping for food try to see if I can exercise and see if I can find alternative work situation.”
Id. at 196. In addition, Plaintiff explained that he does not have any difficulties cooking and
performing housework, such as laundry, and he enjoys playing chess or cards with friends and
going on walks. Id. at 197-198. However, Plaintiff stated that he experiences difficulty standing
and walking “due to numbness in feet when the nerves flair [up]....” Id. at 201. Plaintiff clarified
that he can walk “1 mile maybe more” before he needs to stop and rest, but he can usually resume
walking within ten minutes. Id.
Review of Objective Medical Evidence
Records from 2010
According to the medical records, Plaintiff saw Dr. Mahmoud Aly, M.D. (“Dr. Aly”) in
January 2010. Id. at 265. Dr. Aly observed that Plaintiff was 270 pounds and had high blood
pressure. Id. Dr. Aly reported that Plaintiff experienced hypertension and was taking various
medications, including Lopressor, to treat that ailment. Id. Dr. Aly recommended weight loss to
Plaintiff. Id. In October 2010, Plaintiff went to Dr. Aly again, and the doctor noted that Plaintiff
had lost six pounds and his blood pressure was lower than before. Id. at 264. Indeed, Dr. Aly
observed that Plaintiff’s hypertension was “well controll[ed],” and that he was taking Glucophage
to treat his diabetes mellitus. Id.
Records from 2011
In February 2011, Plaintiff went to Dr. Aly for a physical, and the doctor observed that
“[t]he patient is  well developed, has normal nutrition, has normal station and normal gait.” Id.
at 257. Dr. Aly wrote that “[t]here is no numbness in the upper extremity,” and “[s]welling is not
found in the lower extremity joints.” Id. at 258. The doctor stated that Plaintiff suffered from
diabetes mellitus. Id. In August 2011, Plaintiff visited Dr. Aly, who reported: “BP undercontrol
[sic] on lasix, lisinopril, lopressor, norvasc. Pt doing well. No blood works done.” Id. at 262. In
addition, the doctor observed that Plaintiff was taking Glucophage for his diabetes mellitus. Id. at
263. However, the doctor specifically stated, “NO weight loss yet.” Id.
Records from 2012
In February 2012, Plaintiff went to Dr. Aly for a routine visit, and the doctor stated that
Plaintiff was “[d]oing well. Summer jobs due to loss of regular job. BP under control…. Weight
loss.” Id. at 259. Dr. Aly stated that Plaintiff suffered from hypercholesterolemia. Id. at 260. In
addition, the doctor noted that Plaintiff was taking Glucophage to treat his diabetes mellitus, but
he referred Plaintiff to an endocrinologist to adjust his dosage of the medication. Id. While his
station and gait were normal, Dr. Aly reported that Plaintiff complained of “numbness and pain on
feet. Right worse than left.” Id. The next month, Plaintiff visited Dr. Aly again, complaining of
hypertension and uncontrolled diabetes mellitus. Id. at 384. In pertinent part, the doctor noted
that Plaintiff suffered “chronic [right] foot pain, numbness, tingling, making him unable to walk.”
Id. Dr. Aly recommended that Plaintiff consult with a neurologist. Id.
From June through September 2012, Plaintiff visited Gargi Dhar, M.D. (“Dr. Dhar”), an
internist, on six separate occasions. See id. at 374-356. In June 2012, Dr. Dhar noted that
Plaintiff’s diabetes “has been managed with oral medications,” but he experienced diabetic
neuropathy, which caused “chronic feet numbness and tingling for years.” Id. at 374. In order to
ameliorate those symptoms, Dr. Dhar started Plaintiff on Gabapentin and provided him a referral
to a neurologist. Id. at 375-376. Plaintiff also complained of hypertension, which caused Dr. Dhar
to adjust his dosage of Norvasc. Id.
In July 2012, Plaintiff visited Dr. Dhar because of his “diabetes, hyperlipidemia and
hypertension,” and Dr. Dhar determined that Plaintiff should increase his dosage for the following
medications: (i) Metformin for diabetes; (ii) Lipitor for hyperlipidemia; and (iii) Gabapentin for
neuropathy. Id. at 370. The doctor also recommended that Plaintiff consume a diet with less fatty
foods, as well as see a nutritionist. Id. In August 2012, at a visit with Dr. Dhar, Plaintiff
complained about his diabetes and hypertension, but, because his ailments were being well-
managed, Dr. Dhar only recommended increasing the dosage of Gabapentin to help with the
sensations of numbness and tingling. Id. at 365-366. Later that month, Plaintiff visited Dr. Dhar
for his hypertension, and the doctor determined that Plaintiff should stop taking Lasix and start
taking Hydrochlorothiazide. Id. at 360-362.
In September 2012, Plaintiff, again, visited Dr. Dhar, who stated that Plaintiff “presents
with hypertension, diabetes and hyperlipidemia.” Id. at 356. However, the doctor told Plaintiff to
continue with his current medicine regime, since Plaintiff appeared to be normal and his blood
pressure was “controlled.” Id. at 357. Later that month, Plaintiff visited Amy Gesualdi, D.P.M.
(“Dr. Gesualdi”), a podiatrist. Id. at 360; see id. at 271. Dr. Gesualdi noted that Plaintiff
experienced foot pain, and she stated: “pt present for diabetic foot exam and bil foto pain and
numbness. Neuropathic pain began 6 years ago. he is currently taking gabapentin and is scheduled
to see neurology in november.” Id. at 360. Dr. Gesualdi observed that Plaintiff had some swelling
in his extremities. Id. In addition to continuing to take his medication, the doctor recommended
“rx compression stocking… [since] this will help varicose veins and may help swelling at tarsal
In October 2012, Plaintiff visited Dr. Dhar, who determined that Plaintiff presented
hyperlipidemia and abnormal liver enzyme levels. Id. at 351. In addition, the doctor noted that
Plaintiff also suffered from hypertension. Id. Nevertheless, Dr. Dhar only recommended that
Plaintiff avoid fatty foods and alcohol. Id. at 352. Later that month, Plaintiff visited Shan Chen,
M.D., Ph.D. (“Dr. Chen”), a neurologist, who stated that “Mr. Gullace is a 51 year old man who
came to our neuromuscular clinic for the first visit for the evaluation of bilateral foot pain and
numbness.” Id. at 299. She further noted:
He started to notice the numbness and tingling in his feet four to five years ago.
The numbness progressed two years ago mainly the dorsum of his feet and became
constant. His symptoms got worse with prolonged standing and walking. On and
off he stated to have tingling sensations in his finger tips. He put his feet in cold
water for temporal [sic] relief. He feels that he stands in the sand. The muscles in
his legs felt stiff.
Id. Dr. Chen also reported that Plaintiff “was diagnosed to have diabetes… [but his] glucose level
is not well controlled,” and he also has a history of hypertension. Id. Dr. Chen stated that “[h]is
history and examination are consistent with sensory polyneuropathy, most likely due to diabetes
and hypertriglyceride.” Id. at 303.
Records from 2013
In January 2013, Plaintiff went to Dr. Dhar, who reported that Plaintiff suffered from
hypertension, diabetes and neuropathy and recommended that Plaintiff continue his current
medicine and dietary regime. Id. at 347. Later that same month, Plaintiff visited Dr. Chen, who
stated that, “[s]ince his last visit, there has been no significant changes in his symptoms” of
“numbness and burning in feet.” Id. at 294. The doctor observed that, “[a]fter he walks a long
distance, he started to feel burning sensation in his feet and he has to sit down.” Id. Dr. Chen
opined that Plaintiff suffers “large fiber neuropathy, likely diabetic and hypertriglyceride
neuropathy,” but he is considered “stable.” Id. at 297. Dr. Chen recommended taking Lyrica, as
well as exercise and weight control. Id.
In February 2013, Plaintiff visited Charles Francis, M.D. (“Dr. Francis”), who is a
cardiologist. Id. at 287-289. The doctor observed that Plaintiff has a “normal appearance, healthy
appearing, and obese.” Id. at 287. In addition, he stated that Plaintiff suffered from hypertension,
hyperlipidemia and diabetes. Id. at 288. At the conclusion of the visit, Dr. Francis recommended
that Plaintiff continuing taking the prescribed medications with only minor adjustments to dosage.
That same month, Plaintiff saw Dr. Dhar, but the visit was unremarkable, and the doctor
instructed that Plaintiff continue to take his medication and maintain his diet. Id. at 340-341.
Plaintiff saw Dr. Francis again in March 2013, and the doctor observed that “[Plaintiff]
stated he is doing fine,” and “[h]e tries to exercise but not much and has gained a few pounds in
the last few months.” Id. at 280. Dr. Francis also noted that Plaintiff suffered from hypertension,
and he stated: “Extensive education provided including diet and exercise.”
Id. at 282.
Furthermore, Dr. Francis made a slight adjustment to the dosage of Lipitor to help with Plaintiff’s
hyperlipidemia. Id. That same month, Plaintiff visited Dr. Dhar, who advised Plaintiff to talk to
his cardiologist about his hypertension, since that doctor was administering the blood pressure
medications. Id. at 336. Dr. Dhar also noted that Plaintiff complained about pain in his thumbs
because of diabetic neuropathy. Id. In April 2013, Plaintiff visited Dr. Dhar again, who reported
that Plaintiff’s blood pressure was “better controlled,” and he recommended that Plaintiff
“[continue] current regime. low saw diet, encouraged to lose weight. see nutritionist.” Id. at 327329.
In May 2013, Plaintiff saw Dr. Chen, his neurologist, and she noted that “[h]e cannot walk
for a long distance because of the burning sensation in his feet and he has to sit down.” Id. at 290.
She also noted that Plaintiff suffered from “[s]mall fiber neuropath, etiologies: DM,
hypertriglyceridemia,” but she stated that Plaintiff was “stable.” Id. at 293. She recommended
that Plaintiff continuing taking Lyrica. Id. That same month, Plaintiff visited Liliana Cohen, M.D.
(“Dr. Cohen”), a cardiologist, who stated that Plaintiff’s hypertension was “[c]ontrolled” and
recommended “diet and exercise,” as well as taking Lopressor, Lisinopril and Chlorthalidone. Id.
at 278. Dr. Cohen observed that Plaintiff had hyperlipidemia, and she readjusted his dosage of
Lipitor. Id. With respect to his neuropathy, Dr. Cohen noted that “[Plaintiff] gets LE paresthesia
which is limiting his ability to exercise,” but, otherwise, “[h]e states he is doing fine.” Id. at 276.
Also in May 2013, Plaintiff visited Barbara Greenspan (“Greenspan”), a nutritional
therapist, since Plaintiff reported weight gain. Id. at 313. Greenspan noted that Plaintiff has
diabetes mellitus and hyperlipidemia, and that he experiences “problems including neuropathy of
his feet, which prevents him from walking long distances.” Id. According to Greenspan, she told
Plaintiff to “[l]imit carbohydrate intake to 45-50% of total calories evenly distributed throughout
the day. Limit caloric intake to promote weight loss. Limit total fat intake to less than 30% of
calories; limit saturated fat to less than 7% of calories.” Id. at 314.
In June 2013, Plaintiff visited Greenspan again, and she encouraged Plaintiff “to maintain
small frequent meals and to continue recording his intake. Pt encouraged to read food labels for
carb and fat content. He was encouraged to avoid skipping meals to obtain better blood sugar
control. Pt to restrict his intake of sweets and avoid sugary drinks/desserts.” Id. at 311.
Review of Testimonial Record
The September 2013 Hearing
Plaintiff testified that, at the time of the hearing, he was 5’ 9” and 249 pounds. Id. at 49.
Plaintiff also stated that he attained a General Educational Development (“GED”) certificate, and
that he has previously worked as a construction worker and a cook. Id. at 30-32. With respect to
his disabilities, Plaintiff testified that he has high blood pressure, but he takes medication to control
it. Id. at 33-34. Plaintiff stated that he has diabetes, but he is prescribed Metformin to treat the
symptoms. Id. at 32-33. Although he takes medication for the diabetes, Plaintiff stated that
“[s]ometimes when I bend down I get very dizzy....” Id. at 33.
In addition, Plaintiff testified that he was diagnosed with neuropathy “that’s due to
diabetes.” Id. at 34. According to Plaintiff, his diabetic neuropathy causes numbness and pain in
his feet and hands. See id. He explained, “I feel like I got sand in there. Right now I feel like
sand is like halfway up my shoe.” Id. He continued, “if I do stand for an extended period of time[,
the neuropathy] gets to be like a big grip that was crushing my bones, like after I sit down. And
when I was standing up I couldn’t stand on it.” Id. Plaintiff stated that he also experiences
neuropathy in his hands, specifically his right thumb, as well as his thigh. Id. at 35-36. Plaintiff
testified that he visits a neurologist, who prescribed him medication that helps with the pain and
the burning and pulsating feeling. Id. at 39-40.
As a result of his impairments, Plaintiff testified that he has a hard time picking up heavy
objects with his hands. Id. at 36. For example, Plaintiff explained, “I tried to pick up a frying pan
when… I was making dinner… and usually I just grab it in one hand and, you know, toss
whatever…. [But] I had to use two hands because it’s like I got muscles but they’re not working.”
Id. at 45. With respect to his abilities to walk, Plaintiff stated that he experiences a “burning”
sensation that is located between his toes and his ankles. Id. at 38. Before experiencing that
sensation, Plaintiff testified that he “used to walk like two, three miles a day, usually,” but “[n]ow
[he] couldn’t do a mile” because his feet “start throbbing, they start pulsating.” Id. Nevertheless,
Plaintiff stated that he can stand for “[a] couple hours, like one or two hours” before he experiences
pain. Id. at 39.
The April 2014 Hearing
At the beginning of the hearing, the ALJ explained that he asked Meola, 1 the vocational
expert, to answer vocational interrogatories, id. at 54, which state in pertinent part:
7. Assume a hypothetical individual who was born on November 19, 1960, has at
least a high school education and is able to communicated in English as defined in
20 CFR 404.1564 and 416.964, and has work experience as described in your
response to question #6. Assume further that this individual has the residual
Meola testified that he holds a master’s degree in vocational rehabilitation counseling, and that
he is “certified as a rehab counselor and licensed by the State of New Jersey as such.” Id. at 54.
Plaintiff’s counsel did not object to Meola’s qualifications to render an opinion. Id.
functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b)
and 416.967(b) except
■ He can walk no more than two hours in a normal eight hour workday; and
■ He can only occasionally climb.
10. Could the individual described in item #7 perform any unskilled occupations
with jobs that exist in the national economy?
Id. at 239-240. In his answers, Meola determined that Plaintiff is capable of performing the
following unskilled, light jobs: (i) assembler, marking devices – Dictionary of Occupational Titles
(“DOT”) No. 733.687-010; (ii) eyelet-machine operator – DOT No. 699.685-018; and (iii) labeler
– DOT No. 920.687-126. Id. at 243-248.
Against that background, Meola testified that “light work is defined in two different ways
by the DOT. One is that it does require a person to stand and walk for up to six hours in the course
of an eight-hour day or, and/or that the person would be sitting and using their hands and/or feet
in rapid movement in succession.” Id. 55-56. Meola testified that “stand and walking and lifting
more than 10 pounds make the jobs, usually make the jobs light.” Id. at 56; see id. at 59. However,
he continued, “the fact that a person is only able to sit or stand and walk for two hours would
certainly limit him to the jobs that would clearly fit the second part of that definition rather than
the first part of the definition.” Id. at 56. Meola further stated that those jobs that Plaintiff can
perform, i.e., assembler, eye-let machine operator and labeler, “are done from essentially,
primarily a seated positon….” Id. 58. Meola further stated, for example, that a sewing machine
operator is “someone that will sit most of the day but because they’re using their hands and feet in
rapid succession, it’s considered light work activity.” Id. at 57.
At the conclusion of the hearing, Plaintiff’s counsel stated that “[i]t’s our position… that
both standing and walking are compromised by the claimant’s diabetic neuropathy…. And that
the grid rule pertaining to sedentary work would be more appropriate to his scenario” than light
work. Id. at 62. Nevertheless, Plaintiff’s counsel acknowledged that Plaintiff’s case was a close
call: “So we’ve got an individual, Mr. Gullace who, if he’s limited to sedentary [work], would be
found disabled. If he could do light [work] he’s not disabled. He’s somewhere in between, and
we have to figure out which [one] he is closer to.” Id. at 58.
Review of the ALJ’s Findings
The ALJ issued his written decision on May 7, 2014. See id. at 10-20. The ALJ concluded
that “the claimant has not been under a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act
from July 1, 2010, through the date of this decision.” Id. at 13. In reaching that determination,
the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged
disability onset date, and that Plaintiff suffered from the following severe impairments: diabetes
mellitus, diabetic neuropathy, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and obesity. Id. at 15.
However, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff “[did] not have an impairment or a combination
of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments….”
Id. at 16. The ALJ reasoned that Plaintiff’s diabetes mellitus did not cause more serious ailments,
including gangrene and amputation or seizures, and as such, his “diabetes mellitus does not meet
or medically equal the requirements of Medical Listing 9.00 or any other appropriate medical
listing.” Id. The ALJ further reasoned that, although there is no specific medical listing for
obesity, he evaluated the effects of that impairment to determine whether obesity, in combination
with other impairments, increased Plaintiff’s functional limitations. Id. The ALJ concluded that
obesity did not do so. Id.
In connection with the residual functional capacity determination, the ALJ engaged in a
thorough review of Plaintiff’s function report, which was attached to his applications, as well as
the objective medical records. Id. at 17-18. After considering all of that evidence, the ALJ
determined that Plaintiff “has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in
20 CFS 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except he can walk no more than two hours in a normal eight
hour workday and he can only occasionally climb.” Id. at 17. The ALJ specifically reasoned, in
In sum, the undersigned finds that the residual functional capacity presented herein
is supported by the objective medical evidence contained in the record. The record
reflects that the claimant has a limited work history…. Although he is noted to
suffer some physical limitations due to his diabetes and diabetic neuropathy, the
record also reflects that he is not totally disabled from all work activity. The record
reflects that in 2012, he was working summer jobs…. His treatment notes reported
that his gait and station were normal and his hypertension was noted to be under
control…. Even the claimant’s testimony is inconsistent with a claim for total
disability. He testified that he can stand for a couple of hours and his examinations
fail to show complete disability. Although the undersigned finds that prolonged
walking may aggravate his condition, the undersigned finds no basis for any
limitations greater than those imposed above.
Id. at 18. In sum, the ALJ found that the objective medical evidence, along with Plaintiff’s own
testimony, did not support the finding that Plaintiff was completely disabled, but rather, Plaintiff
is capable of performing a job that requires him to sit for most of the workday, with some pushing
and pulling of arm or leg controls, and that he cannot walk more than two hours and he can only
occasionally climb. See id. at 18.
The ALJ then concluded that Plaintiff was not able to perform his past work, i.e., as a cook
and a construction worker, and that, based on the testimony of Meola, Plaintiff was able to perform
the occupations of “Assembler, Marking Devices,” “Eyelet-Machine Operator” and “Labeler.” Id.
As such, the ALJ concluded that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national
economy that Plaintiff can perform, and thus, he is not disabled. Id. at 19, 20.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
On a review of a final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,
a district court “shall have power to enter, upon the pleadings and transcript of the record, a
judgment affirming, modifying, or reversing the decision of the Commissioner of Social Security,
with or without remanding the cause for a rehearing.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see Matthews v. Apfel,
239 F.3d 589, 592 (3d Cir. 2001). The Commissioner’s decisions regarding questions of fact are
deemed conclusive on a reviewing court if supported by “substantial evidence in the record.” 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); see Knepp v. Apfel, 204 F.3d 78, 83 (3d Cir. 2000). While the court must examine
the record in its entirety for purposes of determining whether the Commissioner’s findings are
supported by substantial evidence, Gober v. Matthews, 574 F.2d 772, 776 (3d Cir. 1978), the
standard is highly deferential. Jones v. Barnhart, 364 F.3d 501, 503 (3d Cir. 2004). Indeed,
“substantial evidence” is defined as “more than a mere scintilla,” but less than a preponderance.
McCrea v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 370 F.3d 357, 360 (3d Cir. 2004). “It means such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate.” Plummer v. Apfel, 186 F.3d 422, 427
(3d Cir. 1999). A reviewing court is not “empowered to weigh the evidence or substitute its
conclusions for those of the fact-finder.” Williams v. Sullivan, 970 F.2d 1178, 1182 (3d Cir. 1992),
cert. denied, 507 U.S. 924 (1993). Accordingly, even if there is contrary evidence in the record
that would justify the opposite conclusion, the Commissioner’s decision will be upheld if it is
supported by the evidence. See Simmonds v. Heckler, 807 F.2d 54, 58 (3d Cir. 1986).
Disability insurance benefits may not be paid under the Act unless Plaintiff first meets the
statutory insured status requirements. See 42 U.S.C. § 423(c). Plaintiff must also demonstrate 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 12 months….”
42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A); see Plummer, 186 F.3d at 427. An individual is not disabled unless “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.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).
Eligibility for supplemental security income requires the same showing of disability. Id. at § 1382c
The Act establishes a five-step sequential process for evaluation by the ALJ to determine
whether an individual is disabled. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520. First, the ALJ determines whether
the claimant has shown that he or she is not currently engaged in “substantial gainful activity.” Id.
at § 404.1520(a); see Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146-47 n.5 (1987). If a claimant is presently
engaged in any form of substantial gainful activity, he or she is automatically denied disability
benefits. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(b); see also Bowen, 482 U.S. at 140. Second, the ALJ
determines whether the claimant has demonstrated a “severe impairment” or “combination of
impairments” that significantly limits his physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(c); see Bowen, 482 U.S. at 146-47 n.5. Basic work activities are defined as
“the abilities and aptitudes necessary to do most jobs.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1521(b). These activities
include physical functions such as “walking, standing, sitting, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching,
carrying or handling.” Id. A claimant who does not have a severe impairment is not considered
disabled. Id. at § 404.1520(c); see Plummer, 186 F.3d at 428.
Third, if the impairment is found to be severe, the ALJ then determines whether the
impairment meets or is equal to the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P., app. 1 (the
“Impairment List”). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). If the claimant demonstrates that his or her
impairments are equal in severity to, or meet those on the Impairment List, the claimant has
satisfied his or her burden of proof and is automatically entitled to benefits. See id. at §
404.1520(d); see also Bowen, 482 U.S. at 146-47 n.5. If the specific impairment is not listed, the
ALJ will consider in his or her decision the impairment that most closely satisfies those listed for
purposes of deciding whether the impairment is medically equivalent. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1526(a). If there is more than one impairment, the ALJ then must consider whether the
combination of impairments is equal to any listed impairment. Id. An impairment or combination
of impairments is basically equivalent to a listed impairment if there are medical findings equal in
severity to all the criteria for the one most similar. Williams, 970 F.2d at 1186.
If the claimant is not conclusively disabled under the criteria set forth in the Impairment
List, step three is not satisfied, and the claimant must prove at step four whether he or she retains
the “residual functional capacity” to perform his or her past relevant work.
20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(e); Bowen, 482 U.S. at 141. If the claimant is able to perform previous work, the
claimant is determined to not be disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e); Bowen, 482 U.S.
at 141-42. The claimant bears the burden of demonstrating an inability to return to the past relevant
work. Plummer, 186 F.3d at 428. Finally, if it is determined that the claimant is no longer able to
perform his or her previous work, the burden of production then shifts to the Commissioner to
show, at step five, that the “claimant is able to perform work available in the national economy.”
Bowen, 482 U.S. at 146-47 n.5; Plummer, 186 F.3d at 428. This step requires the ALJ to consider
the claimant’s residual functional capacity, age, education, and past work experience. 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(f). The ALJ must analyze the cumulative effect of all the claimant’s impairments in
determining whether the claimant is capable of performing work and not disabled. Id.
Plaintiff makes three arguments on appeal as to why the ALJ’s disability determinations
were unsupported by substantial evidence. First, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by not
adequately considering Plaintiff’s obesity alone, or in combination with his other impairments, at
step three and each subsequent step of the analysis, pursuant to Social Security Ruling (“SSR”)
00-3P, 2000 SSR LEXIS 5. Second, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred in his formulation of the
RFC, since the ALJ “engag[ed] in a blanket recitation of the evidence followed by an
announcement of plaintiff’s RFC,” see Pl.’s Br. at 15, and that there is insufficient evidence in the
record to support the conclusion that Plaintiff is capable of unskilled light work. Finally, Plaintiff
maintains that the ALJ erred by discrediting Plaintiff’s subjective symptoms of pain and its
functional effects. The Court will address each argument, in turn. 2
Whether the ALJ Properly Considered Plaintiff’s Obesity
Obesity was removed from the Impairment List in 1999. See Diaz v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.,
577 F.3d 500, 503 (3d Cir. 2009); see also Moore v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., No. 11-5369, 2013 U.S.
Dist. LEXIS 32982, at *6-7 (D.N.J. Mar. 8, 2013). Although an obese claimant is no longer
automatically entitled to benefits, the Third Circuit has recognized that “this did not eliminate
obesity as a cause of disability.” Diaz, 577 F.3d at 503. To the contrary, the court explained:
[SSR 00-3P] replaced an automatic designation of obesity as a Listed impairment,
based on a claimant’s height and weight, with an individualized inquiry, focused
on the combined effect of obesity and other severe impairments afflicting the
claimant: “We will also find equivalence if an individual has multiple impairments,
including obesity, no one of which meets or equals the requirements of a listing,
but the combination of impairments is equivalent in severity to a listed
Id. (quoting 2000 SSR LEXIS 5, at *12). In 2002, the Commissioner promulgated SSR 02-1P,
2002 SSR LEXIS 1, and 67 Fed. Reg. 57859 (Sept. 12, 2002), which superseded SSR 00-3P. Diaz,
577 F.3d at 503. However, the Third Circuit clarified that SSR 02-1P did not materially alter the
The Court notes that Plaintiff does not challenge the following decisions: (i) that Plaintiff was
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since July 1, 2010; (ii) Plaintiff suffered from diabetes
mellitus, diabetic neuropathy, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and obesity; and (iii) Plaintiff is not
capable of performing his past relevant work. In addition, assuming that he is capable of light
work, Plaintiff does not challenge Meola’s determination that Plaintiff can be an assembler, eyelet machine operator and labeler. Accordingly, this Court need not address those issues here.
guidance in SSR 00-3P, which provides that “obesity may increase the severity of coexisting or
related impairments to the extent that the combination of impairments meets the requirements of
a listing.” Id. (quoting 2000 SSR LEXIS 5, at *12). Indeed, SSR 02-1P provides similar guidance
as SSR 00-3P:
[W]e consider obesity to be a medically determinable impairment and remind
adjudicators to consider its effects when evaluating disability. The provisions also
remind adjudicators that the combined effects of obesity with other impairments
can be greater than the effects of each of the impairments considered separately.
They also instruct adjudicators to consider the effects of obesity not only under the
listings but also when assessing a claim at other steps of the sequential evaluation
process, including when assessing an individual’s residual functional capacity.
2002 SSR LEXIS 1, at *2-3. Citing SSR 02-1P, the Third Circuit in Diaz has stated that “an ALJ
must meaningfully consider the effect of a claimant’s obesity, individually and in combination
with her impairments, on her workplace function at step three and at every subsequent step.” Diaz,
577 F.3d at 504 (emphasis added). To be meaningful, an ALJ is not required to “use particular
language or adhere to a particular format in conducting his analysis.” Jones v. Barnhart, 364 F.3d
501, 505 (3d Cir. 2004); see Diaz, 577 F.3d at 504 (stating that an ALJ is not required to “employ
particular ‘magic’ words” in his decision); see also Cooper v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 563 Fed. Appx.
904, 911 (3d Cir. 2014).
In the instant matter, the record reflects that Plaintiff is 5’9” and his weight fluctuates
between 249 and 270 pounds. See A.R. at 49, 265. In his written decision, the ALJ found that
Plaintiff was obese, and that his obesity was a severe impairment. Id. at 15. Ultimately, the ALJ
found that none of Plaintiff’s impairments, or a combination of these impairments, met the Listing.
Id. The ALJ provided the following analysis with respect to whether Plaintiff’s obesity alone, or
in conjunction with his other impairments, equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments:
It is noteworthy that although there is no specific medical listing regarding obesity,
the undersigned has evaluated the impairment herein pursuant to the extensive and
detailed guidelines set forth in SSR 02-1P… [which] states: “However, we will not
make assumptions about the severity or functional effects of obesity combined with
other impairments. Obesity in combination with another impairment may or may
not increase the severity or functional limitations of the other impairment. We will
evaluate each case based on the information in the case record.” Accordingly, the
undersigned has fully considered obesity in the context of the overall record
evidence in making this decision.
Id. at 16. Although he cited to SSR 02-1P, the ALJ stated, in a conclusory fashion, that he
considered all of the relevant evidence in making his decision, but he did not actually articulate
any evidence in connection with Plaintiff’s obesity. Furthermore, the ALJ does not expressly find
that Plaintiff’s obesity, along with his other impairments, did not equal the severity of a listed
Thus, without a discussion of the relevant evidence regarding obesity, or an
explanation of his reasoning, the ALJ has failed to provide meaningful consideration of Plaintiff’s
obesity alone, and in combination with his diabetes mellitus, diabetic neuropathy, hypertension
and hyperlipidemia. See Diaz, 577 F.3d at 504 (“Conclusory statements that a condition does not
constitute the medical equivalent of a listed impairment are insufficient.”); see also Moore, 2013
U.S. Dist. LEXIS 32982, at *13 (“A blanket statement that an ALJ has considered evidence is not
the same thing as an ALJ actually discussing the evidence….”). Therefore, the Court finds that
the ALJ did not adequately explain his consideration of Plaintiff’s obesity in connection with the
step three analysis.
With respect to step four, the ALJ must consider the claimant’s residual functional capacity
and past relevant work. See Lippincott v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 982 F. Supp. 2d 358, 376 (D.N.J.
2013). In the instant matter, the ALJ found that Plaintiff “has the residual functional capacity to
perform light work… except he can walk no more than two hours in a normal eight hour workday
and he can only occasionally climb.” A.R. at 16. In reaching that determination, the ALJ almost
exclusively discussed the effects of Plaintiff’s diabetes mellitus, diabetic neuropathy and
hypertension on his ability to function in the workplace. Id. at 17-18. With respect to Plaintiff’s
obesity, the ALJ made one comment: “[t]he record reflects that the claimant has a history of
hypertension and obesity since January 2010.” Id. at 17. The ALJ did not provide any further
explanation about Plaintiff’s obesity, and its impact on his residual functional capacity. Although
the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff’s obesity was a severe impairment, during his RFC analysis, he
did not provide an explanation as to whether Plaintiff’s obesity had an adverse effect on his ability
to perform unskilled light work.
While Defendant does not concede that the ALJ did not properly consider Plaintiff’s
obesity, she argues, instead, that “remand” on that basis would be futile, because “Plaintiff points
to no evidence that his obesity, in connection with his other alleged impairments, satisfies the
standard described above,” i.e., that Plaintiff has the burden of presenting evidence that a specific
impairment, or a combination of impairments, equals all of the criteria of a listed impairment.
Def.’s Br. in Opp. at 5-6. In other words, Defendant argues that the ALJ’s error in that regard is
Under the harmless error rule, courts are not required to remand an action when the error
committed does not affect the outcome of the case. See Rutherford v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546, 553
(3d Cir. 2005) (“We… conclude that a remand is not required here because it would not affect the
outcome of the case.”); see also Woodson v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 661 Fed. Appx. 762, 766 (3d
Cir. 2016); see Holloman v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 639 Fed. Appx. 810, 814 (3d Cir. 2016).
Importantly, “the burden of showing that an error is harmful normally falls upon the party attacking
the agency’s determination.” Shinseki v. Sanders, 556 U.S. 396, 409 (2009). Citing the Supreme
Court in Shinseki, the Third Circuit has declared that the attacking party must “explain how, even
if the ALJ’s analysis was lacking, the deficiency was harmful to his claims,” including
“affirmatively point[ing] to specific evidence that demonstrates he [or she] should succeed....”
Woodson, 661 Fed. Appx. at 766 (citing Shinseki, 556 U.S. at 409). Indeed, in order for an error
to be harmful, the attacking party must affirmatively identify evidence that the impairment imposes
additional limitations on his or her functional capabilities. See Rutherford, 399 F.3d at 553 (stating
that the plaintiff only made “an assertion that her weight makes it more difficult for her to stand,
walk and manipulate her hands and fingers. That generalized response is not enough to require a
remand....”); see also Stockett v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., --- F. Supp. 3d ---, 2016 WL 6275163, at
*16 (D.N.J. Oct. 26, 2016) (holding that the ALJ’s error was harmless, “as there is no evidence
that Plaintiff’s [impairment], if credited by the ALJ, would have impacted the RFC determination,
given that [the plaintiff’s doctor] assigned no limitations to Plaintiff stemming from the
Plaintiff contends that, had the ALJ properly considered Plaintiff’s obesity in combination
with his other impairments, it would undoubtedly lead to the conclusion that Plaintiff was either
disabled at step three, or that Plaintiff’s obesity would impact the ALJ’s RFC determination.
Without any medical evidence, Plaintiff surmises that his diabetic neuropathy, together with his
obesity, affects his functional capabilities, since “[t]he fact that those feet must carry a 260 pound
frame further limits his ability to stand and walk to even less than 2 hours and thus less than
sedentary work.” Pl.’s Br. at p. 14. However, advancing this argument by itself fails to meet the
burden. First, other than conclusory statements, Plaintiff does not explain how the ALJ’s lack of
meaningful consideration as to Plaintiff’s obesity would change any of the ALJ’s analysis. Rather,
without any supporting medical evidence, he argues that the ALJ would have inevitably come to
a different outcome had he considered Plaintiff’s obesity. That, alone, is not enough. See
Woodson, 661 Fed. Appx. at 766 (holding an error harmless because the plaintiff “only says in
very vague terms that an actual discussion of his impairments would lead to the conclusion that he
was disabled....”). Second, and relatedly, Plaintiff does not affirmatively point to any evidence
that his obesity actually imposed additional limitations on his ability to function in the workplace.
See id. In fact, his medical records reflect a contrary conclusion; it is clear that Plaintiff was merely
instructed to control his weight, through diet and exercise, in an attempt to mitigate the symptoms
caused by hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes mellitus and diabetic neuropathy. See, e.g., A.R.
at 278, 282, 297, 311-314, 370. None of the doctors found that Plaintiff’s obesity burdened his
ability to perform activities, work or otherwise. Because Plaintiff has merely offered a generalized
response that his weight makes it harder for him to stand and walk, he has failed to meet his burden,
and as such, this Court finds the ALJ’s error to be harmless. 3 See Rutherford, 399 F.3d at 553;
see, e.g. Vargas v. Colvin, No. 15-2502, 2017 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 4837, at *12 (D.N.J. Jan. 11,
2017) (holding that remand is inappropriate “given the absence of any medical evidence in the
record indicating that [the plaintiff’s] obesity has affected his functioning in any way.”).
Whether the ALJ Properly Determined Plaintiff’s RFC
At the outset, the Court has already found that the ALJ’s lack of explanation in regard to
Plaintiff’s obesity is harmless error. Relying on Cotter v. Harris, 642 F.2d 700, 704 (3d Cir. 1981)
and Burnett, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ must consider and explain the reasons for discounting
evidence in making his residual functional capacity determination. Specifically, Plaintiff contends
This case is distinguishable from other cases where the court found remand appropriate, because,
in those cases, the plaintiff presented evidence in the administrative proceeding that could have
potentially changed the outcome of the case. See, e.g., Halsey v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., No. 156311, 2016 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 147987, at *14 (D.N.J. Oct. 25, 2016); Moore, 2013 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 32982, at *12-13.
that the ALJ “simply recites the evidence and then announces a finding.” 4 Pl.’s Br. at p. 16. The
“In making a residual functional capacity determination, the ALJ must consider all
evidence before him,” and must “give some indication of the evidence which he rejects and his
reason(s) for discounting such evidence.” Burnett, 220 F.3d at 121; see Cotter, 642 F.2s at 704;
see also Goldberg v. Colvin, No. 13-6055, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 31012, at *24-25 (D.N.J. Mar.
13, 2015) (stating that the ALJ must consider both medical and non-medical evidence). However,
this rule does not require an ALJ to explicitly discuss every piece of relevant evidence in his
decision. Fargnoli v. Halter, 247 F.3d 34, 42 (3d Cir. 2001); see Johnson v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.,
529 F.3d 198, 204 (3d Cir. 2008). Ultimately, “[w]here the ALJ’s findings of fact are supported
by substantial evidence, we are bound by those findings, even if we would have decided the factual
inquiry differently.” Hagans v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 694 F.3d 287, 292 (2012) (quoting Fargnoli,
247 F.3d at 38).
In the instant matter, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff is unable to perform his past work
as a chef and a construction worker, see A.R. at 18, but he concluded that Plaintiff had “the residual
functional capacity to perform light work... except he can walk no more than two hours in a normal
eight hour workday and he can only occasionally climb.” 5 Id. at 16. The ALJ first examined the
Plaintiff does not argue, for example, that the ALJ ignored probative evidence in the record, or
that he improperly weighed some evidence at the expense of other evidence. Indeed, in connection
with this argument, Plaintiff does not cite to any evidence in the administrative record. See Pl.’s
Br. at 14-18. Instead, Plaintiff broadly declares that “the ALJ is duty-bound to articulate a
defensible, rational, evidentiary case regarding the crucial issue of what the claimant can still do
despite his impairments and what he cannot do because of those impairments.” Id. at 15.
The regulation defines light work as follows:
Light work involves lifting no more than 20 pounds at a time with frequent lifting
or carrying of objects weighing up to 10 pounds. Even though the weight lifted
may be very little, a job is in this category when it requires a good deal of walking
function report, which contains probative, non-medical evidence about Plaintiff’s functional
capabilities. Specifically, the ALJ found that Plaintiff enjoys shopping, playing games and
exercising, which includes going on daily walks. See id. at 17. In addition, he found that Plaintiff
reported “no difficulties with personal care and he reported being able to do cleaning and laundry.”
Id. While he is able to perform daily tasks, the ALJ noted that Plaintiff “reported difficulty at
times with standing due to flare-ups in the nerves on his feet and he reported pain with climbing
and walking,” but he stated that Plaintiff also “reported being able to walk about a mile.” Id. In
addition, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff suffers from diabetes, high blood pressure and
Next, the ALJ reviewed the medical records. The ALJ found that “[t]he record reflects that
[Plaintiff] has a history of hypertension and obesity since January 2010.” He further found that,
in February 2011, Plaintiff was taking medication to maintain his diabetes mellitus, and “his gait
was normal and no swelling or numbness was noted in his upper or lower extremities.” Id. The
ALJ determined that, in August 2011, “[Plaintiff] was noted to be doing well,” and that he was
“doing summer jobs due to loss of his regular work.” Id. Nevertheless, the ALJ observed that,
starting in February 2012, “[Plaintiff] noted numbness and pain in his feet,” and that “[Plaintiff]
or standing, or when it involves sitting most of the time with some pushing and
pulling of arm or leg controls. To be considered capable of performing a full or
wide range of light work, you must have the ability to do substantially all of these
activities. If someone can do light work, we determine that he or she can also do
sedentary work, unless there are additional limiting factors such as loss of fine
dexterity or inability to sit for long periods of time.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b) (emphasis added). During the supplementary hearing, Meola explained
that “light work is defined in two different ways by the DOT.” A.R. at 55. He testified that,
normally, light work requires “a person to stand and walk for up to six hours in the course of an
eight-hour day….” Id. However, he explained that Plaintiff, based on his limitations, falls into
the second part of the definition, which requires a person to be “sitting and using their hands and/or
feet in rapid movement in succession.” Id. 55-56.
reported continuing foot pain throughout the summer of 2012, but no gait disturbance was
observed,” nor was there any swelling in his extremities. Id. The ALJ explained that Plaintiff
“was diagnosed with diabetic neuropathy” in September 2012. Id. The ALJ observed that,
although Plaintiff’s doctors directed him to engage in diet and exercise, in early May of 2013,
Plaintiff “did not follow the advised plan.” Id. However, the ALJ found that, “by late May of
2013, he noted complying with the plan and having lost weight. He reported being compliant with
his diet and prescribed medications and he noting he was seeing a nutritionist.” Id. While he
continued to experience tingling in his feet and hands, which limited his ability to exercise, the
ALJ reported that Plaintiff did not have any swelling in his extremities, and he had a full range of
motion in his joints. Id.
Based on both the medical and non-medical evidence, the ALJ made the following
remarks: “Although he is noted to suffer some physical limitations dues to his diabetes and
diabetic neuropathy, the record also reflects that he is not totally disabled from all work activity,”
since “he was working summer jobs” in 2012 and “his treatment notes reported that his gait and
station were normal and his hypertension was noted to be under control.” Id. The ALJ concluded
that Plaintiff’s testimony was inconsistent with a claim for total disability, because “[h]e testified
that he can stand for a couple of hours and his examinations fail to show complete disability.” Id.
However, the ALJ determined that “prolonged walking may aggravate his condition” Id.
Here, the Court finds no reason to disturb the ALJ’s residual capacity determination, since
he considered the probative evidence and he provided detailed explanations. Consistent with the
medical evidence, the ALJ recognized that Plaintiff suffered from various impairments, including
neuropathy, which impaired his ability to stand and walk. However, the ALJ correctly determined
that the overwhelming evidence in the record provides that Plaintiff’s impairments were
controlled, and that his doctors were managing his symptoms through medication, diet and
exercise. In addition, there is substantial evidence in the record, including Plaintiff’s own
testimony, that Plaintiff is still able to walk “long” distances before he experiences a burning
sensation in his feet. See, e.g., A.R. 201, 294, 290, 299, 313. Indeed, Plaintiff stated, in his
function report, that he can walk “1 mile maybe more” before he needs to stop and rest, and that
he is able to resume walking within ten minutes. Id. at 201. With respect to his ability to stand,
Plaintiff testified that he experiences pain when he stands for an extended period of time, see id.
at 34, but he can stand for “[a] couple hours, like one or two hours” before his feet begin to hurt.
Id. at 39. Furthermore, during the administrative proceeding, Plaintiff presented no evidence that
he cannot sit for extended periods of time. Indeed, there seems to be no limitation in connection
with sitting. Accordingly, the Court concludes that the ALJ’s RFC findings are supported by
substantial evidence, and he has provided adequate rational for the determination that Plaintiff can
perform light work with the exception that he can walk no more than two hours in a normal eight
hour workday, and he can only occasionally lift.
The ALJ Properly Evaluated Plaintiff’s Credibility
Plaintiff next argues that the ALJ failed to adequately consider Plaintiff’s credibility in
connection with his subjective complaints of pain. In particular, Plaintiff argues that he suffers
from debilitating pain in his hands and feet, and that he can no longer lift heavy objects. For
instance, Plaintiff points to the following testimony to support his position: “I tried to pick up a
frying pan…, [but] I had to use two hands because it’s like I got muscles but they’re not working.”
Id. at 36. The Court finds Plaintiff’s argument unpersuasive.
Credibility determinations are entitled to substantial deference on appeal. See Reefer v.
Barnhart, 326 F.3d 376, 380 (3d Cir. 2003) (stating that courts “ordinarily defer to an ALJ’s
credibility determination because he or she has the opportunity at a hearing to assess a witness’s
demeanor.”); see also Izzo v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 186 Fed. Appx. 280, 286 (3d Cir. 2006) (stating
that “a reviewing court typically defers to an ALJ’s credibility determination so long as there is a
sufficient basis for the ALJ’s decision to discredit a witness.”).
When making credibility
determinations, the ALJ must consider “all your symptoms, including pain, and the extent to which
your symptoms can reasonably be accepted as consistent with the objective medical evidence and
other evidence.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529(a); see Hartranft v. Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 362 (3d Cir. 1999)
(“Allegations of pain and other subjective symptoms must be supported by objective medical
evidence.”). Rejection of subjective testimony must be based on substantial evidence in the record.
See VanHorn v. Schweiker, 717 F.2d 871, 873 (3d Cir. 1983).
In the instant matter, the ALJ considered Plaintiff’s subjective complaints in reaching the
residual functional capacity determination. Specifically, the ALJ found, based on the evidence in
the record, including Plaintiff’s own testimony, that he “suffer[ed] some physical limitations due
to his diabetes and diabetic neuropathy,” including “that prolonged walking may aggravate his
condition.” See A.R. 18. But, the ALJ further determined that Plaintiff’s “statements concerning
the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of these symptoms are not entirely credible.” Id. at
17. The Court finds no error in the ALJ’s determination. Plaintiff’s own statements belie his
argument that his disabilities have rendered him incapable of work. In his function report, Plaintiff
stated that he has no problem performing household tasks, specifically cooking. Id. at 197-198.
In addition, Plaintiff testified that he is able to stand and walk for extended periods of time. See
id. at 38. Furthermore, Plaintiff does not point to, nor has this Court found, any objective medical
evidence that Plaintiff experienced issues with his ability to hold heavy objects, such as a frying
pan. Accordingly, the Court accords great deference to the ALJ’s credibility determination of
Plaintiff’s subjective testimony and does not find remand to be warranted on this point. See, e.g.,
Malloy v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 306 Fed. Appx. 761, 765 (3d Cir. 2009) (“Credibility
determinations as to a claimant’s testimony regarding pain and other subjective complaints are for
the ALJ to make. In view of the evidence presented in the record and of the ALJ’s ‘opportunity
to observe the demeanor and to determine the credibility of the claimant,’ these findings are
entitled to ‘great weight’ and should be upheld.”) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
For the reasons set forth above, the Court finds that the ALJ’s decision is supported by
substantial evidence in the record. Accordingly, the ALJ’s decision is affirmed, and Plaintiff’s
Complaint is dismissed.
DATE: February 23, 2017
/s/ Freda L. Wolfson
The Honorable Freda L. Wolfson
United States District Judge
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