Ramos v. Colvin
MEMORANDUM (Order to follow as separate docket entry).Signed by Honorable Malachy E Mannion on 9/29/17. (bs)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
MIDDLE DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA
JUAN M. RAMOS
NANCY A. BERRYHILL,
Acting Commissioner of the
Social Security Administration1
CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:16-0949
Pending before the court is the report and recommendation of
Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick, (Doc. 16), which recommends that the
plaintiff’s appeal from the final decision of the Commissioner of the Social
Security Administration (“Commissioner”) be denied and that the
Commissioner’s decision be affirmed. Judge Mehalchick reviewed the record
in this case pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §405(g) and 42 U.S.C. §1383(c)(3) to
determine whether substantial evidence exists to support the Commissioner’s
decision denying the plaintiff’s claims for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”)
and supplemental security income (“SSI”) under the Social Security Act. See
Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 25(d), Acting Commissioner
Nancy A. Berryhill is automatically substituted as the named defendant in this
suit in place of former Acting Commissioner Carolyn W. Colvin.
42 U.S.C. §§401-433, 1381-1383f. The plaintiff, Juan M. Ramos, filed
objections to Judge Mehalchick’s report and recommendation. (Doc. 17). The
Commissioner, in turn, responded to the plaintiff’s objections. (Doc. 21).
This matter has been fully briefed and is now ripe for disposition. For the
following reasons, the report and recommendation is ADOPTED, and the
plaintiff’s appeal of the Commissioner’s decision is DENIED.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
When objections are timely filed to the report and recommendation of a
magistrate judge, the district court reviews de novo those portions of the
report to which objections are made. 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1); Brown v. Astrue,
649 F.3d 193, 195 (3d Cir. 2011). Although the standard of review is de novo,
the extent of review is committed to the sound discretion of the district judge,
and the court may rely on the magistrate judge’s recommendations to the
extent it deems proper. Rieder v. Apfel, 115 F.Supp.2d 496, 499 (M.D. Pa.
2000) (citing United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 676 (1980)).
For those sections of the report to which no objection is made, the court
should, as a matter of good practice, “satisfy itself that there is no clear error
on the face of the record in order to accept the recommendation.” Fed. R. Civ.
P. 72(b), advisory committee notes. See also Univac Dental Co. v. Dentsply
Int’l, Inc., 702 F.Supp.2d 465, 469 (M.D. Pa. 2010) (citing Henderson v.
Carlson, 812 F.2d 874, 878 (3d Cir. 1987) (explaining that judges should give
some review to every report and recommendation)). Nonetheless, regardless
of whether or not timely objections are made to the report, the district court
may accept, not accept, or modify, in whole or in part, the magistrate judge’s
findings or recommendations. 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1); Fed. R. Civ. P. 72(b)(3).
In reviewing the denial of disability benefits, the court must determine
whether the denial is supported by “substantial evidence.” Johnson v. Comm’r
of Soc. Sec., 529 F.3d 198, 200 (3d Cir. 2008); Brown v. Bowen, 845 F.2d
1211, 1213 (3d Cir. 1988). 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, 565 (1988) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v.
NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). It is “more than a mere scintilla but may be
somewhat less than a preponderance of the evidence.” Zirnask v. Colvin, 777
F.3d 607, 610 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Rutherford v. Barnhart, 399 F.3d 546,
552 (3d Cir. 2005)). The “possibility of drawing two inconsistent conclusions
from the evidence does not prevent an administrative . . . finding from being
supported by substantial evidence.” Consolo v. Fed. Maritime Comm’n, 383
U.S. 607, 620 (1966). The court is “not permitted to weigh the evidence or
substitute [its] own conclusions for that of the fact-finder.” Burns v. Barnhart,
312 F.3d 113, 118 (3d Cir. 2002) (citing Williams v. Sullivan, 970 F.2d 1178,
1182 (3d Cir. 1992)). Moreover, in determining whether the administrative law
judge’s (“ALJ”) decision is supported by substantial evidence, the court may
not parse the record but rather should scrutinize the “entire record” as a
whole. Smith v. Califano, 637 F.2d 968, 971 (3d Cir. 1981).
DISABILITY EVALUATION PROCEDURE
To receive disability benefits, a claimant 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. §423(d)(1)(A). Furthermore, a claimant
will be deemed to be disabled only if the claimant’s “physical or mental
impairment or impairments are of such severity that [the claimant] is not only
unable to do [the claimant’s] previous work but cannot, considering [the
claimant’s] 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 [the claimant] lives,
or whether a specific job vacancy exists for [the claimant], or whether [the
claimant] would be hired if [the claimant] applied for work.” Id. §423(d)(2)(A).
“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.” Id.
The regulations implementing these standards further define a five-step
sequential evaluation process to assess whether a claimant is “disabled” as
the term is defined in the Social Security Act. 20 C.F.R. §§404.1520(a),
416.920(a). Under this procedure, the Commissioner must determine: (1)
whether the claimant is engaged in a substantial gainful work activity; (2)
whether the claimant’s impairment is severe; (3) whether the severity of the
claimant’s impairment meets or equals that of an impairment listed under 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1; (4) whether the claimant’s residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) would permit the claimant to perform past relevant
work activities; and (5) whether the claimant can nonetheless perform any
other type of work existing in significant numbers in the national economy,
considering the claimant’s RFC, age, education, and work experience. See id.
The claimant bears the initial burden of demonstrating a medically
determinable impairment that prevents him or her from performing past
relevant work, but once the claimant has established at step four that he or
she cannot perform past relevant work, the burden shifts to the Commissioner
at step five to show that jobs exist in significant numbers in the national
economy that the claimant could still perform. Id. §§404.1512, 416.912.
As set forth more fully in Judge Mehalchick’s report,2 the plaintiff filed
applications for benefits under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act on
February 21, 2013, alleging that he had become disabled due to hypertension
and kidney problems as early as July 1, 2011. (Doc. 6-3, at 2; Doc. 6-5). On
May 10, 2013, the plaintiff’s claims were denied at the initial level of
administrative review when an adjudicator determined that the plaintiff was
capable of performing his past relevant work. (Doc. 6-3). The plaintiff
thereafter filed a timely request for a hearing before an ALJ; this hearing, at
which the plaintiff appeared pro se, was held on August 5, 2014. (Doc. 6-2, at
26; Doc. 6-4, at 11-15).
The court notes that the plaintiff objected broadly and generally to
“certain factual findings and omissions” in Judge Mehalchick’s report without
specifying the particular factual findings to which the objection was raised.
(Doc. 17, at 2). Ordinarily, “[t]o obtain a de novo determination of a magistrate
[judge’s] findings by a district court, 28 U.S.C. §636(b)(1) requires both timely
and specific objections to the report.” Goney v. Clark, 749 F.2d 5, 6 (3d Cir.
1984) (emphasis added). While the plaintiff’s objection lacked the requisite
specificity, the relevant facts are nonetheless restated herein for the sake of
clarity and completion.
At step one of the sequential evaluation process, the ALJ found that the
plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the July 1, 2011
onset date. (Doc. 6-2, at 15). At step two, the ALJ found that the medical
evidence of record established the presence of the following medically
determinable severe impairments during the relevant period: stage III kidney
disease, nephrosclerosis, hypertension, and a history of myocardial infarction.
(Id.). At step three, the ALJ found that during the relevant period, the plaintiff
did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or equaled
the severity of a listed impairment. (Doc. 6-2, at 16).
Between steps three and four, the ALJ assessed the plaintiff’s RFC as
having the ability to perform the full range of light work, as defined in 20
C.F.R. §§404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), by examining the relevant evidence.
(Doc. 6-2, at 16-19). In reaching this determination, the ALJ considered the
plaintiff’s claims that his impairments caused him to feel nauseous and that his
medication made him feel drowsy and dizzy. (Doc. 6-2, at 17). The ALJ found
that while the plaintiff’s impairments and medications could reasonably be
expected to cause the alleged symptoms, the plaintiff’s statements about the
intensity, persistence, and limiting effects of the symptoms were not entirely
credible. (Id.). The ALJ further determined that that the plaintiff’s kidney
disease was in stable condition and that he had recovered well from his
myocardial infarction. (Id. at 18). The plaintiff himself reported that he had no
difficulty maintaining his personal care, including preparing meals, doing
laundry, shopping for groceries, and handling money. (Id. at 19).
As part of this RFC assessment, the ALJ also weighed medical opinions
by non-treating physical consultative examiner Thomas McLaughlin (“Dr.
McLaughlin”) and non-examining state agency medical consultant David Hutz
(“Dr. Hutz”). (Doc. 6-2, at 18-19; Doc. 6-3, at 7-19; Doc. 6-8, at 4-19). Both Dr.
McLaughlin and Dr. Hutz concluded that the plaintiff had a RFC allowing for
the performance of work at or near the “medium” exertional level. Specifically,
Dr. McLaughlin opined that the plaintiff could lift or carry up to one hundred
pounds occasionally, fifty pounds frequently, and twenty pounds continuously;
Dr. Hutz determined that the plaintiff could lift or carry up to fifty pounds
occasionally and twenty-five pounds frequently. (Doc. 6-2, at 18; Doc. 6-3, at
7-18; Doc. 6-8, at 11-16). The ALJ, however, afforded these opinions little
weight, finding them to be inconsistent with the plaintiff’s medical impairments,
especially considering the plaintiff’s established history of heart attack and
elevated blood pressure. (Doc. 6-2, at 18-19). The ALJ noted that Dr.
McLaughlin’s opinion failed to consider the plaintiff’s complaints of dizziness
and fatigue caused by his medications. (Id. at 18). As such, the ALJ ultimately
found that, during the relevant period, the plaintiff had the RFC to perform the
full range of light exertional work. (Id. at 16).
The ALJ denied the plaintiff’s claims for disability benefits at step four of
the sequential evaluation process in a written decision dated January 29,
2015, concluding that the plaintiff was capable of performing his past relevant
work as an x-ray technician despite the fact that his RFC limited him to
performing light exertional work. (Doc. 6-2, at 16-20). In reaching this
conclusion, the ALJ relied on the testimony of Vocational Expert (“VE”) Nadine
Henzes, who stated that work as an x-ray technician, as it is generally
performed, is classified at the light exertional work level. (Doc. 6-2, at 19, 4243). While the VE testified that the plaintiff actually performed his prior work at
the heavy exertional level, she noted that an individual with the plaintiff’s
assessed RFC would still be able to work as an x-ray technician as such work
is generally performed in the national economy. (Id.). The ALJ thus
determined at step four that the plaintiff was not disabled because he was
capable of performing his past work as it is generally performed. (Id. at 19-20).
On February 23, 2015, the plaintiff requested review of the ALJ’s
decision by the Appeals Council of the Office of Disability Adjudication and
Review. (Id. at 9). The Appeals Council denied his request for review on
March 22, 2016, affirming the ALJ’s decision as the final decision of the
Commissioner, subject only to judicial review. (Id. at 2-6).
The plaintiff initiated this action by filing a pro se complaint on May 20,
2016, alleging that the ALJ’s decision was based on facts not supported by
substantial evidence in the record. (Doc. 1, at 3-4). Judge Mehalchick
thereafter issued her report, recommending that the Commissioner’s decision
be affirmed. (Doc. 16).
The plaintiff objects to two main conclusions from Judge Mehalchick’s
report: (1) that the ALJ’s assessment that the plaintiff has a RFC permitting a
full range of light work is supported by substantial evidence, and (2) that the
ALJ’s finding that the plaintiff has the ability to perform past relevant work is
supported by substantial evidence. (Doc. 17, at 2). The court will address
each objection to the report and recommendation in turn.
A. RESIDUAL FUNCTIONAL CAPACITY ASSESSMENT
The plaintiff first argues that the evidence of record does not support a
RFC assessment of light exertional work. (Id. at 3-6). Specifically, the plaintiff
asserts that the ALJ substituted his own judgment in place of the evidentiary
record to arrive at an “arbitrary . . . compromise” RFC assessment that is
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unsupported by substantial evidence. (Id. at 5). In making this point, the
plaintiff further claims that the ALJ did not clearly delineate the grounds upon
which his RFC assessment was based and that, after discrediting the opinions
of Dr. McLaughlin and Dr. Hutz, there was no evidence upon which this
decision could have been based. (Id.).
The relevant inquiry is whether the ALJ’s RFC assessment was
supported by substantial evidence. “The ALJ—not treating or examining
physicians or state agency consultants—must make the ultimate disability and
RFC determinations.” Chandler v. Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 667 F.3d 356, 361
(3d Cir. 2011). “The ALJ must consider all relevant evidence when
determining an individual’s [RFC] in step four.” Fargnoli v. Massanari, 247
F.3d 34, 41 (3d Cir. 2001). Such evidence includes “medical records,
observations made during formal medical examinations, descriptions of
limitations by the claimant and others, and observations of the claimant’s
limitations by others.” Id.
Here, the ALJ’s assessment that the plaintiff has a RFC of light
exertional work was indeed supported by substantial evidence, and the ALJ
conducted a comprehensive review of the evidentiary record before arriving at
his RFC determination. First, the ALJ evaluated the medical records
documenting the plaintiff’s myocardial infarction and his subsequent medical
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treatment following that incident. (Doc. 6-2, at 17). Specifically, the ALJ
factored in and considered records pertaining to the plaintiff’s hospitalization
dated July 15, 2011, his emergency room visit for blood pressure issues dated
September 8, 2011, his visit to his primary care physician dated February 24,
2012, his referral to a nephrologist based on his elevated creatinine levels
dated March 23, 2012, and his follow-up visit dated July 27, 2012. (Id.). In
sum, this group of medical records indicated that the plaintiff had elevated
blood pressure, but the plaintiff himself claimed that his high blood pressure
was due to the fact that he had not been exercising regularly. (Id.).
Next, the ALJ considered medical records documenting the plaintiff’s
evaluations by a nephrology specialist. (Id.). At a visit dated October 2, 2012,
diagnostic testing revealed findings consistent with stage III kidney disease,
but the plaintiff denied any feelings of malaise, nausea, or localized weakness.
(Id.). Treatment records dated January 8, 2013 indicated that the plaintiff was
diagnosed with hypertensive nephrosclerosis and that his medications were
subsequently adjusted. (Id.). However, blood work revealed that the plaintiff’s
renal function was otherwise stable, and the plaintiff denied experiencing any
chest pain, shortness of breath, nausea, or vomiting. (Id.).
Additional evidence to support the ALJ’s RFC assessment was found in
records documenting the plaintiff’s emergency room visits on February 28,
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2013 and April 18, 2013, both of which resulted in alterations to the plaintiff’s
blood pressure medication regimen. (Id. at 18). Around this time, the plaintiff
reported some dizziness after taking his medication but denied experiencing
any nausea, chest pain, or shortness of breath. (Id.).
This lengthy series of medical reports, in itself, would be enough for the
ALJ’s RFC assessment of light exertional work to rest upon the requisite
substantial evidence. These records alone indicate that while some sideeffects of the plaintiff’s medications and previous medical episodes persisted,
he had recovered well and was in a stable condition. (Id.). Such findings are at
least consistent with an assessed RFC of light exertional work.
In light of this, the fact that the ALJ assigned little weight to the opinions
of Dr. McLaughlin, Dr. Hutz, and even the plaintiff himself does not preclude a
finding that the ALJ’s RFC assessment was predicated on substantial
evidence. (Doc. 16, at 12). It is well-established that “[i]n making a [RFC]
determination, the ALJ must consider all evidence before him.” Burnett v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec. Admin., 220 F.3d 112, 121 (3d Cir. 2000) (citing
Plummer v. Apfel, 186 F.3d 422, 429 (3d Cir. 1999)). Such evidence includes
both “allegations of pain and other subjective symptoms” as well as “objective
medical evidence.” Id. at 122. As the fact finder, the ALJ also has the right to
make credibility determinations on various components of the evidentiary
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record and can even “reject . . . testimony entirely” so long as the ALJ states
adequate reasons for doing so. Baerga v. Richardson, 500 F.2d 309, 312 (3d
Cir. 1974). Even a treating physician’s opinion can be rejected based on
contradictory medical evidence. See Frankenfield v. Bowen, 861 F.2d 405,
408 (3d Cir. 1988).
The ALJ here sufficiently explained his credibility determinations, and
Judge Mehalchick, in turn, identified the substantial evidence supporting these
determinations. (Doc. 6-2, at 16-19; Doc. 16, at 13-16). For instance, the
plaintiff relied exclusively on his own grievances to substantiate the severity of
his dizziness and fatigue without providing any evidence of how these
symptoms resulted in serious functional limitations. (Doc. 6-2, at 17-18; Doc.
7, at 10-11). Side effects from medication such as drowsiness “should not be
viewed as disabling unless the record references serious functional
limitations.” Burns, 312 F.3d at 131. None of the plaintiff’s treating physicians
identified any functional limitations on the plaintiff’s ability to work. (Doc. 16, at
14). Notably, the record also reveals that, after the onset of his illnesses, the
plaintiff continued to engage in a full range of daily activities, such as
maintaining personal care, preparing meals, doing laundry, shopping for
groceries, and handling money. (Doc. 6-2, at 19; Doc. 6-6, at 16-20). Given
the availability of such evidence, the ALJ did not err in discounting the
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plaintiff’s statements concerning the intensity, persistence, and limiting effects
of his medical symptoms. Judge Mehalchick’s report also explained that the
plaintiff failed to point to any evidence supporting greater limitations than
those assessed by the ALJ. (Doc. 16, at 14-15).
Similarly, the ALJ’s decision to give little weight to the opinions of Dr.
McLaughlin and Dr. Hutz was supported by substantial evidence. The ALJ
stated on the record that he discredited these opinions precisely because he
believed them to be inconsistent with the plaintiff’s established medical
impairments. (Doc. 6-2, at 18-19). In fact, had the ALJ taken these doctors’
opinions at face value, the plaintiff’s assessed RFC likely would have been
even less advantageous to his overall claims for DIB and SSI because both
doctors believed that the plaintiff could tolerate more physical exertion than
light work. (Id.). Ultimately, these opinions were at least consistent with the
ALJ’s RFC assessment of light work, and they comprised only one of many
pieces of evidence supporting the ALJ’s RFC analysis.
Contrary to the plaintiff’s assertions, therefore, the ALJ did delineate the
evidence upon which his RFC assessment was based, and the RFC
assessment was not an “arbitrary . . . compromise.” (Doc. 6-2, at 16-19; Doc.
17, at 4). The ALJ adequately and reasonably explained his conclusion that
the plaintiff could perform the full range of light work despite his established
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medical history, and he carefully detailed the bases upon which this RFC
assessment was predicated. Moreover, the ALJ’s assignment of little weight to
the opinions of non-treating physicians Dr. McLaughlin and Dr. Hutz does not
undermine the RFC determination. Even if these opinions were excluded from
the record entirely, the evidence used to reach this RFC determination was
still substantial. On this basis, the plaintiff’s objection to Judge Mehalchick’s
report is overruled.
B. ABILITY TO PERFORM PAST RELEVANT WORK
The plaintiff’s second objection to Judge Mehalchick’s report asserts that
the record lacks substantial evidence to support the ALJ’s finding that the
plaintiff could perform his past relevant work as it is generally performed in the
national economy. (Doc. 17, at 6-13). In making this point, the plaintiff
attempts to argue that the VE’s hearing testimony did not support a finding
that the plaintiff could perform his past relevant work as it is generally
performed. (Doc. 16, at 17). As noted in Judge Mehalchick’s report, the
applicable regulations provide that an ALJ may give weight to a VE’s expert
opinion testimony when determining whether a claimant can perform his or her
past relevant work, either as the claimant actually performed said work or as it
is generally performed in the national economy. (Doc. 16, at 16). See 20
C.F.R. §§404.1560(b)(2), 416.960(b)(2).
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Here, the ALJ posed two hypothetical questions to the VE that were of
consequence in the ALJ’s determinations at steps four and five of the five-step
sequential evaluation process. (Doc. 6-2, at 42-43). The first question involved
a hypothetical claimant with the same age, education, and experience as the
plaintiff who performed work at the medium exertional level but was able to be
off-task for twenty percent of his workday and take extended breaks at least
twice daily. (Id. at 42). To this question, the VE responded that the plaintiff
would not be able to return to his past relevant work under these conditions as
such work is generally performed. (Id.). The second question involved a
hypothetical claimant with the same age, education, and experience as the
plaintiff who performed work at the light exertional level but could not use
ropes, ladders, or scaffolds and could not work in close proximity to
dangerous conditions or machinery. (Id. at 42-43). To this question, the VE
replied that the plaintiff could return to his past relevant work under these
conditions as such work is generally performed. (Id. at 43). The plaintiff now
contends that the ALJ’s second question to the VE failed to consider or
account for “any of [the] plaintiff’s symptoms and complaints,” thus rendering
the VE’s response to this question irrelevant. (Doc. 17, at 9).
Hypothetical questions posed to a VE “must reflect all of a claimant’s
impairments” that are credibly established by the evidentiary record. Burns,
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312 F.3d at 123 (quoting Chrupcala v. Heckler, 829 F.2d 1269, 1276 (3d Cir.
1987)). See also Rutherford, 399 F.3d at 555 (3d Cir. 2005) (noting that an
ALJ need only convey to the VE the claimant’s credibly established
impairments); Chrupcala, 829 F.2d at 1276 (concluding that an ALJ’s
hypothetical questions need only include those impairments supported by the
record). As Judge Mehalchick indicated in her report, however, there is not
merely one single method by which an ALJ could account for occupational
limitations caused by dizziness and fatigue in a hypothetical question to a VE.
(Doc. 16, at 18).
Here, the ALJ accounted for the plaintiff’s credibly established
impairments in both hypothetical questions. (Doc. 6-2, at 42-43). In the first
question, this occurred by stipulating that the claimant could be off-task for
part of the day and take two extended breaks; in the second question, this
occurred by reducing the claimant from medium to light exertional work and
adding several postural and environmental limitations. (Id.). The plaintiff
alleges that the second question made no provision for considering his
established impairments, but in fact, the ALJ altered the hypothetical to
include both light work and further workplace restrictions. (Doc. 16, at 18-19;
Doc. 17, at 10). These alterations were sufficient to account for the plaintiff’s
impairments in the second question.
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In this regard, it is also worth noting that there is no evidence in the
record to establish that the plaintiff’s medical symptoms were of such a nature
that including the limitations from the first hypothetical question would be the
only feasible or fair way to account for the plaintiff’s workplace restrictions.
(Doc. 16, at 19). As such, the ALJ was under no obligation to include in the
second hypothetical question the more restrictive requirements that the
plaintiff be permitted to be off-task for twenty percent of the day and take
multiple additional breaks. While the plaintiff contends that the severity of his
impairments warranted the inclusion of these requirements in the second
question, he fails to address the fact that the severity of his impairments could
be factored into a hypothetical question through many alternative avenues.
(Doc. 17, at 11-12). Judge Mehalchick thus properly determined that the
record as a whole did not necessitate including these requirements in the
second hypothetical question, explaining that the ALJ’s restriction to light work
with additional postural and environmental limitations fully accounted for the
plaintiff’s credibly established medical symptoms. (Doc. 16, at 18-20).
The ALJ’s own remarks during the hearing lend further support to this
conclusion. (Doc. 6-2, at 43-45). Specifically, the ALJ attempted to clarify the
meaning of his hypothetical questions by noting that the reduction from
medium to light exertional work was intended to account for both the plaintiff’s
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age and his testimony regarding his alleged impairments. (Id. at 43; Doc. 16,
at 20). Judge Mehalchick correctly points out that other courts within the Third
Circuit have previously concluded that limitations of light exertional work,
along with certain postural and environmental limitations, can sufficiently
account for a claimant’s symptoms of dizziness and fatigue caused by
medication, especially when the ALJ reasonably finds that the intensity,
persistence, and limiting effects of those symptoms are not fully credible.
(Doc. 16, at 19). See Aldrich v. Colvin, No. 3:13-CV-1292, 2014 WL 888507,
at *11, *14 (M.D. Pa. Mar. 6, 2014); Rodriguez v. Barnhart, No. 02-CV-017KAJ, 2004 WL 393142, at *8 (D. Del. Feb. 25, 2004). This is precisely the
hypothetical that the VE confronted in the instant action before determining
that an individual with the plaintiff’s assessed RFC would be able to work as
an x-ray technician as such work is generally performed in the national
economy. (Doc. 6-2, at 19, 42-43). Judge Mehalchick appropriately
determined that the ALJ’s reliance on this hypothetical was reasonable, that
the hypothetical did consider all of the plaintiff’s credibly-established
impairments, and that substantial evidence existed to support the ALJ’s
conclusion. (Doc. 6-2, at 19-20).
“Where the ALJ’s findings of fact are supported by substantial evidence,
[the court is] bound by those findings, even if [the court] would have decided
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the factual inquiry differently.” Fargnoli, 247 F.3d at 38 (citing Hartranft v.
Apfel, 181 F.3d 358, 360 (3d Cir.1999)). “No principle of administrative law or
common sense requires [the court] to remand a case in quest of a perfect
opinion unless there is reason to believe that the remand might lead to a
different result.” Fisher v. Bowen, 869 F.2d 1055, 1057 (3d Cir. 1989). For
these reasons, the plaintiff’s objection to Judge Mehalchick’s report is
recommendation, (Doc. 16), is ADOPTED, the plaintiff’s objections to the
report and recommendation, (Doc. 17), are OVERRULED, and the plaintiff’s
appeal, (Doc. 1), is DENIED. A separate order shall issue.
s/ Malachy E. Mannion
MALACHY E. MANNION
United States District Judge
Date: September 29, 2017
O:\Mannion\shared\MEMORANDA - DJ\CIVIL MEMORANDA\2016 MEMORANDA\16-0949-01.docx
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