WALSH v. COLVIN
MEMORANDUM AND OPINION. SIGNED BY HONORABLE JAN E. DUBOIS ON 3/8/17. 3/9/17 ENTERED & E-MAILED.(fdc)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
CAROLYN W. COLVIN,
Acting Commissioner of Social Security
March 8, 2017
In this action, plaintiff Patricia Walsh seeks review of the final decision of defendant, the
Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (the “Commissioner”), denying her
claim for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act
(“SSA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381–1383f. The denial was based on a determination by an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) that plaintiff was not disabled under the SSA. By Order
dated October 26, 2015, the Court referred the case to United States Magistrate Judge Marilyn
Heffley for a Report and Recommendation (“R & R”). On July 28, 2016, Judge Heffley issued
an R & R recommending that plaintiff’s Motion and Request for Review 1 be denied. Presently
before the Court are plaintiff’s Objections to the R & R. For the reasons that follow, the Court
approves and adopts the R & R, overrules plaintiff’s Objections, and denies plaintiff’s Motion
and Request for Review.
Plaintiff’s Request for Review includes a motion for summary judgment seeking reversal of the
Commissioner’s decision and remand for a new hearing. The motion relies on the same
arguments as the Request for Review.
The background of this case is set forth in detail in Magistrate Judge Heffley’s R & R and
will be recited in this Memorandum only as necessary to address plaintiff’s Objections. Plaintiff
applied for SSI on April 24, 2009. Administrative R. (“R.”) 14. After her application was
denied, plaintiff requested a hearing which was held on May 24, 2011. R & R 2 (citing R. 14,
100). After the hearing, the initial denial was affirmed, and plaintiff appealed. R. 14. A second
hearing was held on June 13, 2013, and the ALJ again denied plaintiff’s application in a decision
dated November 13, 2015. R & R 2 (citing R. 14-27). In concluding that plaintiff was not
disabled, the ALJ found that plaintiff suffered from eight severe impairments (obesity,
fibromyalgia, migraine headaches, bipolar disorder, depressive disorder, major depressive
disorder, generalized anxiety disorder and panic disorder), and seven non-severe impairments.
R & R 4 (citing R. 16-17). The ALJ determined that plaintiff’s impairments did not, alone or in
combination, meet or equal a listed impairment under the SSA. R & R 4 (citing R. 18). Based
on her determination of plaintiff’s limitations and the testimony of a vocational expert, the ALJ
found that plaintiff was capable of performing jobs that existed in significant numbers in the
national economy and was thus not disabled under the SSA. R & R 4-5 (citing R. 20, 26-27).
The Appeals Council denied plaintiff’s request for review on April 1, 2015, and the
ALJ’s determination was thus affirmed as the Commissioner’s final decision. R & R 2 (citing R.
1-2). Plaintiff commenced this action seeking review of the Commissioner’s final decision
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) on May 13, 2015.
A district court evaluates de novo those portions of a magistrate judge’s report and
recommendation to which an objection is made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). The Court may
“accept, reject, or modify, in whole or in part, the findings or recommendations made by the
magistrate judge.” Id.
Judicial review of the Commissioner’s final decision is limited. The Court reviews the
Commissioner’s denial of benefits to “determine whether it is supported by substantial evidence
on the record as a whole” and applied the correct legal standards. McCrea v. Comm’r of Soc.
Sec., 370 F.3d 357, 359 (3d Cir. 2004); Friedberg v. Schweiker, 721 F.2d 445, 447 (3d Cir.
1983). “Substantial evidence is ‘such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion.’ Although substantial evidence is more than a mere scintilla, it
need not rise to the level of a preponderance.” McCrea, 370 F.3d at 359-60 (quoting Newell v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 347 F.3d 541, 545 (3d Cir. 2003)).
To establish a disability under the SSA, the claimant must demonstrate some “medically
determinable basis for an impairment that prevents her from engaging in any substantial gainful
activity” for the statutory period. Diaz v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 577 F. 3d 500, 503 (3d Cir. 2009)
(quotation marks and citations omitted); 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). A claimant bears the initial
burden of proving the existence of a disability. Rossi v. Califano, 602 F.2d 55, 57 (3d Cir.
1979). Once the claimant satisfies this burden, the burden of proof shifts to the Commissioner to
show that the claimant “has the capacity to perform specific jobs that exist in the national
Disability claims are evaluated using a “five-step sequential evaluation” of whether a
claimant: (1) is currently employed; (2) has a severe impairment; (3) has an impairment that
meets or equals the requirements of a listed impairment; (4) can perform past relevant work
based on her residual functional capacity; and (5) if not, can perform other work in view of her
residual functional capacity, age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520; see
McCrea, 370 F.3d at 360. In deciding a disability claim, “an ALJ must clearly set forth the
reasons for [her] decision. Conclusory statements that a condition does not constitute a medical
equivalent of a listed impairment are insufficient. The ALJ must provide a discussion of the
evidence and an explanation of reasoning for [her] conclusion to sufficiently enable meaningful
judicial review.” Diaz, 577 F. 3d at 504 (quotation marks and citations omitted). However, the
ALJ “need not employ particular magic words[,] . . . particular language[,] or adhere to a
particular format in conducting [the] analysis.” Id. (quotation marks omitted).
Plaintiff objects to the R & R on the grounds that Magistrate Judge Heffley erred in her
conclusions that (1) the ALJ properly evaluated the evidence of plaintiff’s obesity, fibromyalgia,
and migraine headaches; (2) substantial evidence supported the ALJ’s determination that
plaintiff’s impairments did not meet or equal the criteria of the mental impairment listings; and
(3) the ALJ permissibly relied on the testimony of the vocational expert. The Court addresses
each objection in turn.
A. Plaintiff’s First Objection
Plaintiff first objects to Judge Heffley’s conclusion that the ALJ adequately evaluated the
effects of plaintiff’s obesity, fibromyalgia, and migraine headaches, and the combined effect of
plaintiff’s impairments. Obj. 6, 10. The Court addresses each of plaintiff’s arguments in turn.
In determining whether a claimant is disabled, “an ALJ must meaningfully consider the
effects 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. Plaintiff
makes two arguments with respect to the ALJ’s consideration of plaintiff’s obesity.
First, plaintiff argues that “[t]he essence of the [R & R] appears to be that because the
ALJ stated that she considered obesity, the conclusion is sufficient even though the ALJ did not
undertake any substantive analysis of the actual evidence.” Obj. 6. Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ
failed in her obligation to provide a specific analysis of the evidence of plaintiff’s obesity and her
resulting impairment. Obj. 6.
The Court rejects this argument. Judge Heffley concluded that the ALJ had adequately
addressed the effects of plaintiff’s obesity, alone and in combination with plaintiff’s other
impairments. On this issue, Judge Heffley concluded that the ALJ recognized her obligation to
consider, and stated that she did consider at step three, “‘the combined effect of Walsh’s obesity
and other impairments in her analysis, even though no treating or examining medical source
indicated that Walsh suffered any functional limitation that was caused or exacerbated by her
obesity.’” R & R 6 (citing R. 18). The ALJ also “expressly recognized that Walsh asserted that
her obesity negatively affected her mental health and that her mental health problems caused her
to gain weight, but stated that Walsh admitted she had not reported that effect to her mental
health providers or discussed it with them.” R & R 6 (citing R. 18, 21). Furthermore, in
determining plaintiff’s residual functional capacity (“RFC”), the ALJ “included ‘exertional and
environmental limitations as well as limitations to unskilled work with limited social
interaction,’” R & R 7 (citing R. 18), and limited plaintiff’s RFC accordingly. R & R 7 (citing R.
20). Judge Heffley noted that the ALJ included these limitations after consideration of state
psychologist Dr. Perch’s opinion that plaintiff “was ‘able to meet the basic mental demands of
competitive work on a sustained basis,’” the lack of objective medical evidence of any functional
physical limitations caused by plaintiff’s obesity, and the ALJ’s determination that the plaintiff’s
self-reporting was not credible. R & R 7 (citing R. 20, 49, 115).
Judge Heffley further noted that, even if the ALJ had not properly analyzed the effect of
plaintiff’s obesity, plaintiff had failed to point to any medical evidence in the record to support
her claim that her obesity and other impairments resulted in disability or to explain how the
limitations found by the ALJ were inadequate. R & R 7 (citing Woodson v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec.,
Civil Action No. 14-6129 (SRC), 2015 WL 7760187, at *2 (D.N.J. Dec. 2, 2015) (“Plaintiff thus
bears the burden . . . of showing not merely that the Commissioner erred, but also that the error
was harmful.”)). Thus, Judge Heffley concluded that any failure by the ALJ to consider
plaintiff’s obesity would amount to harmless error. R & R 8 (citing Holloman v. Comm'r Soc.
Sec., 639 F. App'x 810, 814 (3d Cir. 2016) (non-precedential) (stating that the appellant must
“‘explain [ ] ... how the ... error to which he points could have made any difference.’” (citing
Shinseki v. Sanders, 556 U.S. 396, 409 (2009)).
Having reviewed the record, the Court agrees with Judge Heffley’s conclusion that the
ALJ expressly considered the effects of plaintiff’s obesity alone and in combination with her
other impairments. Furthermore, the Court agrees that any error in the ALJ’s analysis of
plaintiff’s obesity would be harmless.
Second, plaintiff argues that Judge Heffley erred by relying on Rutherford v. Barnhart,
399 F.3d 546 (3d Cir. 2005), to find that the ALJ sufficiently analyzed the effects of plaintiff’s
obesity by relying on Dr. Perch’s opinion of plaintiff’s level of impairment. Obj. 6. In
Rutherford, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit concluded that the ALJ’s
analysis of the claimant’s obesity did not require remand where the plaintiff did not assert and
the ALJ did not find obesity to be a severe impairment, and the ALJ relied on medical reports by
doctors who “must . . . be viewed as aware of [the claimant’s] obvious obesity.” 399 F.3d at
553. Plaintiff argues that the ALJ may not rely on Dr. Perch’s opinion because Dr. Perch did not
analyze the effects of plaintiff’s obesity and the ALJ was required to specifically evaluate the
evidence of plaintiff’s obesity. Obj. 6-7. See Diaz, 577 F.3d at 504-05 (distinguishing
Rutherford and remanding because ALJ failed to consider the effect of obesity after finding
obesity to be a severe impairment at step two).
The Court rejects this argument because plaintiff mischaracterizes the extent to which the
R & R relies on the holding of Rutherford. Far from concluding that the ALJ’s analysis of
plaintiff’s obesity was sufficient because she relied on Dr. Perch’s opinion, the R & R concluded
that the ALJ specifically considered the effect of plaintiff’s obesity. R & R 6 (citing R. 18-20).
Furthermore, “[n]otwithstanding” Dr. Perch’s conclusion regarding plaintiff’s abilities, the ALJ
imposed restrictions based on plaintiff’s obesity and other impairments. R & R 6 (citing R. 1820); see also Diaz, 577 F.3d at 504 (“Were there any discussion of the combined effect of Diaz’s
impairments we might agree with the District Court [that the ALJ’s consideration of obesity was
2. Fibromyalgia and Migraine Headaches
Judge Heffley concluded that the ALJ adequately analyzed plaintiff’s fibromyalgia and
migraine headaches because the ALJ considered an applicable listed impairment and plaintiff did
not provide evidence of any impairment arising from her fibromyalgia or migraine headaches.
Obj. 9. The plaintiff objects to this conclusion. The Court rejects plaintiff’s argument.
With respect to fibromyalgia, Judge Heffley concluded that “[t]he ALJ specifically
considered whether Walsh met Listing 1.02, which addresses ‘major dysfunction of a joint (due
to any cause).’” R & R 10 (citing R. 18). Judge Heffley further found that the ALJ applied the
language of Listing 1.02 and that, based on the record, plaintiff “was able to ambulate effectively
and that her fibromyalgia did not cause her to suffer an inability to perform fine or gross
movements effectively.” Id. Judge Heffley went on to state that substantial evidence supported
the ALJ’s conclusion that plaintiff’s subjective accounts of her pain were not credible, including
numerous inconsistencies between plaintiff’s testimony, self-reports, and medical evidence. R &
R 11-13 (citing R. 21-25). She also noted that plaintiff had not identified what precise
restrictions stem from her fibromyalgia. R & R 9-14.
With respect to migraine headaches, Judge Heffley noted that plaintiff “offer[ed] no
citation to any evidence regarding any functional limitations those headaches may have
imposed” and thus “any shortcoming by the ALJ in discussing her reasoning regarding those
headaches does not provide a basis for remand.” RR 14 n. 4.
Having reviewed the record, the Court agrees with the Judge Heffley’s conclusion that
the ALJ adequately analyzed the effect of plaintiff’s fibromyalgia and migraine headaches. The
Court notes that, in addition to the portions of the record cited in the R & R, the ALJ found that
plaintiff’s “headaches are stress-related and treated with medication.” R. 25. Furthermore, the
Court agrees that any deficiency in the ALJ’s analysis of this issue constitutes harmless error
because plaintiff has failed to specify what additional impairments were caused by her
fibromyalgia and migraine headaches and not included in the limitations imposed by the ALJ.
See Holloman, 639 F. App'x at 814.
3. The Combined Effect of Plaintiff’s Impairments
Finally, plaintiff objects to the R & R’s rejection of her argument that the ALJ failed to
address the combined effect of plaintiff’s impairments. Obj. 10.
To the extent that this is a “general” rather than a “specific” objection to the R & R, it is
overruled. See, e.g., Palmer v. Apfel, 995 F. Supp. 549, 552 n. 4 (E.D. Pa. Feb. 9, 1998) (“A
party who files objections to a magistrate judge's Report and Recommendation is obliged to file
‘specific’ objections . . . . General or blanket objections do not comply with Rule 72(b) and need
not be addressed by the district court.” (citations omitted)). Even if the Court considers
plaintiff’s argument on the merits, for the reasons already stated, the Court agrees with the Judge
Heffley’s conclusion that the ALJ adequately addressed the effect of plaintiff’s impairments,
alone and in combination. See also Morrison v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 268 Fed. App’x 186, 189
(3d Cir. 2008) (non-precedential) (“The ALJ . . . explicitly indicated a number of times that [s]he
was considering the impairments in combination. We see no reason not to believe [her].”).
Accordingly, the Court overrules plaintiff’s first objection.
B. Plaintiff’s Second Objection
Plaintiff objects to Judge Heffley’s conclusion that substantial evidence supported the
ALJ’s finding that plaintiff did not meet or equal the “B criteria” of Section 12.04 of the listed
mental impairments. In step three of the analysis of a disability claim, a claimant must prove
that her impairments meet or equal the criteria of a listed impairment. To meet § 12.04(B), the
claimant must have marked or repeated levels of impairment in two of four areas: (1) activities of
daily living; (2) social functioning; (3) concentration, persistence, or pace; or (4) episodes of
decompensation. 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1, § 12.04(B) (amended by 81 FR 66138-01,
effective January 17, 2017). Plaintiff presents three arguments in support of this objection.
First, plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred because she did not consider the restrictions from
plaintiff’s “psychiatric problems” in her analysis of plaintiff’s mental impairments, including the
statement of plaintiff’s primary care provider that many of plaintiff’s symptoms “stem from her
psychiatric illness,” and the statement of her rheumatologist that plaintiff’s impairments have a
“prominent psychological component.” Obj. 11 (citing R. 22, 498).
The Court disagrees. The ALJ noted the psychological component of plaintiff’s reported
symptoms, R. 21, 22, but found no medical evidence to support plaintiff’s claim that she satisfied
the criteria of a listing based on those symptoms. R. 18, 22. Furthermore, the ALJ stated that
she had found plaintiff’s self-reports of her symptoms not credible. R. 21, 23-25. On this
record, the Court concludes that the ALJ adequately considered plaintiff’s reports of her
symptoms. R. 18, 21.
Second, plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred when she did not consider the effect of
plaintiff’s diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. Obj. 11 (citing to R. 592, 594, 596, 598,
1187). However, Judge Heffley found that “the ALJ explicitly found that Walsh did not meet or
equal Listing 12.08, . . . the listing regarding personality disorders.” R & R 15 n. 5 (citing R. 18).
Judge Heffley went on to state that “personality disorders are evaluated using the same B criteria
that the ALJ applied to evaluating Walsh’s other mental health disorders, and the ALJ found
Walsh did not meet those criteria.” Id. Plaintiff presented no objection or argument with respect
to Judge Heffley’s analysis, and the Court agrees with the conclusion of the R & R on this issue.
Third, plaintiff argues that the Judge Heffley erred in finding that substantial evidence
supports the ALJ’s finding that plaintiff had only mild or moderate restrictions in the areas of (1)
activities of daily living; (2) social functioning; and (3) maintaining concentration, persistence,
or pace. The Court addresses each area in turn.
1. Activities of daily living
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred when she found that plaintiff had only mild restrictions
in daily living because the ALJ “mischaracterize[ed]” the record. Obj. 15. Specifically, plaintiff
contends that the ALJ incorrectly found that plaintiff has no difficulties in personal care, can
make simple meals, and can complete her own chores, including laundry and cleaning her room.
Obj. 15 (citing R. 19). Plaintiff argues that she does not cook but makes sandwiches or prepares
canned food twice a month, that her mother cooks everything else, and that she needs help
carrying things if they are heavy or she is having a mood swing. Obj. 15 (citing R. 370).
Plaintiff argues that, in the R & R, Judge Heffley “independently searched the record for
evidence that supports the ALJ’s determination, but . . . was not relied upon by the ALJ in
reaching her decision.” Obj. 15 (citing Fargnoli v. Massanari, 247 F.3d 34, 44 n. 7 (3d Cir.
2001). Significantly, plaintiff does not identify what evidence, if any, included in the R & R was
not discussed by the ALJ.
The Court rejects plaintiff’s argument. Judge Heffley determined that the ALJ’s
assessment that plaintiff suffered only mild restrictions in activities daily living was supported by
substantial evidence. R & R 21. This evidence included plaintiff’s report of her daily activities,
including personal care, meal preparation, and household chores, discussed by the ALJ in step
three of the analysis, R. 19 (citing R. 368-69), and Dr. Perch’s finding that plaintiff was “able to
follow a schedule, prepare simple meals, perform routine household tasks, use public
transportation, shop, handle bills, and follow her interests,” discussed by the ALJ in assessing
plaintiff’s RFC. R & R 24 (citing R. 497). The ALJ did not list the entirety of the evidence she
relied on in step three, but “made clear . . . that she was addressing the listing criteria in more
detail in the course of her RFC analysis in step four” and was “not required to restate all of the
evidence [she relied] on in discussing each step of the analysis.” R & R 21, 24 (citing R. 20 and
Cop v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 226 F. App’x 203, 208 (3d Cir. 2007)). The Court agrees.
Judge Heffley also concluded that the ALJ had properly discounted contradictory
evidence of plaintiff’s level of restriction in her activities of daily living from a single Functional
Assessment and plaintiff’s self-report. R & R 10-12, 16-21. On this issue the Court notes that
plaintiff does not specifically object to Judge Heffley’s analysis of ALJ’s assessment of this
evidence. After reviewing the record, the Court agrees the ALJ’s determination that plaintiff has
only mild restrictions in her activities of daily living is supported by substantial evidence.
2. Social Functioning
Plaintiff argues that “the ALJ provided a sparse explanation” for her finding that plaintiff
has only moderate limitations in social functioning and failed to consider plaintiff’s “prolonged
and near constant issues with her family and her treating doctors.” Obj. 14 (citing R. 19, 63,
703-04, 708, 697, 699, 711, 715, 717). The Court rejects these arguments.
With respect to plaintiff’s relationship to her treating physicians, Judge Heffley
concluded that “although there was evidence of Walsh having disputes with her doctors about
her diagnosis, treatment and benefits applications, there was no evidence that she was incapable
of interacting with the public, or cooperating with coworkers or supervisors in the workplace.”
R & R 22-23. With respect to plaintiff’s relationship to her family, Judge Heffley stated that
“the only evidence of [the difficulties with her mother and sister] are Walsh’s own statements,
which the ALJ properly found were not credible . . . and [a single Functional Assessment] of her
functional abilities, which the ALJ properly discredited.” R & R 23. Judge Heffley thus
determined that plaintiff “failed to meet her burden to establish that she had marked difficulties
in social functioning,” and that the ALJ’s determination that plaintiff did not have marked
limitations in social functioning was supported by substantial evidence, including Dr. Perch’s
opinion based on plaintiff’s medical records and the evidence in those records. R & R 23.
The Court agrees that substantial evidence supports the conclusion that plaintiff suffered
only moderate limitations in social functioning. The ALJ considered plaintiff’s relationship with
her treatment providers and specifically discussed plaintiff’s experiences with doctors at
Northwestern Human Services and Drexel Department of Psychiatry. R. 23-24. On this issue,
the ALJ “note[d] that the record indicates that the claimant was quick to change providers if she
disagreed with their findings, opinions, requests, or recommendations.” R. 25. While the ALJ’s
analysis did not specifically refer to plaintiff’s relationship with her mother and sister, the ALJ
properly discounted the only evidence regarding those difficulties. R & R 23. Furthermore,
plaintiff provides no explanation with respect to how the limitations imposed by the ALJ were
insufficient to account for her relationship with her mother and sister. Thus, any error in the
ALJ’s analysis of plaintiff’s level of social functioning from failing to specifically consider
plaintiff’s relationship with her family would be harmless.
3. Maintaining Concentration, Persistence, or Pace
Plaintiff argues that the ALJ’s explanation of her finding that plaintiff had only moderate
limitations in concentration, persistence, or pace “was manifestly insufficient.” Obj. 12.
Plaintiff further contends that the ALJ’s conclusion is contradicted by plaintiff’s reports that she
is unable to get out of bed due to her fibromyalgia pain, periodically has trouble with her
memory and focusing on daily chores due to her depression, experiences anxiety every day, and
has panic attacks. Obj. 13 (citing to R. 66, 69, 687, 694, 697, 702, 711).
The Court disagrees. Judge Heffley concluded that the ALJ properly discounted
plaintiff’s self-reports of her symptoms as not credible, and “relied on the repeated evaluations of
[plaintiff’s] treating physician’s contained in her medical records that found no deficiencies in
her mental skills” and on Dr. Perch’s evaluation that, despite plaintiff’s moderate difficulties in
this area, plaintiff was “able to meet the basic mental demands of competitive work on a
sustained basis.” R & R 23-24. This Court’s review of the record comports with Judge Heffley’s
conclusion. The ALJ’s determination that plaintiff suffered only moderate restrictions in
maintaining concentration, persistence, and pace is supported by substantial evidence. For the
reasons discussed above, the ALJ properly found plaintiff’s self-reporting to be not credible. In
addition to the portions of the ALJ’s determination cited by plaintiff, Obj. 12, the ALJ discussed
the evidence contained in plaintiff’s medical reports in which no deficiencies in her mental
abilities were noted. R. 23-24 (citing R. 509, 587, 603, 624-25). The ALJ need not repeat the
evidence she relied on in step three of her analysis when she stated that she included, and did
include, this evidence in her determination of plaintiff’s residual functional capacity in step four.
Cop, 226 F. App’x at 208.
Accordingly, the Court overrules plaintiff’s second objection.
C. Plaintiff’s Third Objection
Plaintiff’s third and final objection is that Judge Heffley erred in concluding that
substantial evidence supported the ALJ’s determination that plaintiff can perform work that
exists in significant numbers in the national economy. Plaintiff argues that ALJ erroneously
relied on the vocational expert’s (“VE”) response to a hypothetical posed by the ALJ because the
hypothetical did not explicitly include plaintiff’s moderate limitation in concentration,
persistence, or pace. Obj. 16, 19. Specifically, plaintiff argues that the hypothetical question
did not include plaintiff’s limitations in concentration, persistence or pace, and instead limited
plaintiff to “simple routine tasks with short, simple instructions, simple work related decisions
with few workplace changes, no interaction with the public and no more than occasional
interaction with coworkers and supervisors.” Obj. 18-19.
Judge Heffley determined that ALJ’s hypothetical “adequately conveyed” the full extent
of Walsh’s established limitations. R & R 29 (citing Ramirez v. Barnhart, 372 F.3d 546, 554
(3d Cir. 2004)). In this objection, plaintiff urges the Court “to follow the rule . . . that ‘[t]he
ALJ’s failure to include all of plaintiff’s credibly established mental impairments [is] error,
particularly considering that the burden was on the Commissioner at Step Five to prove that
Plaintiff could perform a job that exists in the national economy.’” Obj. 18 (citing Drelling v.
Colvin, No 14-CV-2211, 2016 WL 245288, at *8 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 20, 2016).
The Court rejects plaintiff’s argument that the hypothetical posed by the ALJ did not
adequately convey plaintiff’s limitations. A hypothetical “must include all of a claimant’s
impairments.” Ramirez, 372 F.3d at 553. However, contrary to plaintiff’s assertion, this does
not require that the hypothetical explicitly state each limitation; rather it requires that the
hypothetical “reflect” and “adequately convey” each of the claimant’s limitations. Ramirez, 372
F.3d at 555. Nothing in the record suggests that the restriction to “simple routine tasks with
short, simple instructions” and “simple work related decisions with few workplace changes” did
not adequately reflect and convey plaintiff’s limitations in concentration, persistence, or pace.
See, e.g., Menkes v. Astrue, 262 Fed. App’x 410, 412-13 (3d Cir. 2008) (non-precedential) (no
error in hypothetical question restricting work to “simple routine tasks” where ALJ found
moderate limitations in concentration, persistence, and pace). Cf. Drelling, 2016 WL 245288, at
*8 (finding error where hypothetical made no mention of plaintiff’s mental limitations, despite
finding moderate impairment concentration, persistence, and pace).
Accordingly, the Court overrules plaintiff’s third objection to the R & R.
For the foregoing reasons, the R & R is approved and adopted, plaintiff’s Objections are
overruled, plaintiff’s Motion and Request for Review is denied, and judgment is entered in favor
of defendant and against plaintiff. An appropriate order follows.
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