The opinion of the court was delivered by: Lamberth, District Judge.
This matter, brought under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405
(g), is before the Court on defendant's motion for summary affirmance of
the Commissioners s denial of benefits and plaintiff's motion for
reversal. Upon consideration of the parties' submissions, the
administrative record, and the entire record herein, defendant's motion
will be denied and plaintiff's motion will be granted.
Plaintiff applied for Supplemental Social Security Income ("SSI") on
January 3, 1994 for aggravation of back and joint injury initially
sustained in June 1986.*fn1 Plaintiff's application was denied initially
and following a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). The
administrative Appeals Council granted review and remanded the case to
the ALJ in April 1997 for the taking of additional evidence concerning
plaintiff's mental impairments and, if necessary, another vocational
assessment considering the mental impairments. The ALJ conducted a second
hearing in October 1997 and issued a written decision on November 20,
1997. The ALJ's decision became final on April 21, 1999, when the Appeals
Council denied plaintiff's request for review. Plaintiff timely filed
This Court must affirm the Commissioner's decision regarding a
claimant's disability if, on the basis of the entire record, it is
supported by substantial evidence. 42 U.S.C. § 405 (g); see
Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420, 28 L.Ed.2d 842
(1971); Simms v. Harris, 662 F.2d 774, 777 (D.C.Cir. 1980). Substantial
evidence is "more than a mere scintilla. It means such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion."
Richardson, 402 U.S. at 401, 91 S.Ct. 1420 (quoting Consolidated Edison
Co. v. N.L.R.B., 305 U.S. 197, 229, 59 S.Ct. 206, 83 L.Ed. 126 (1938));
Brown v. Bowen, 794 F.2d 703, 705 (D.C.Cir. 1986). To determine whether
the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence, the
Court must "carefully scrutinize the entire record." Davis v. Heckles,
566 F. Supp. 1193, 1195 (D.D.C. 1983). The Court may not reweigh the
evidence and "replace the [Commissioner's] judgment regarding the weight
and validity of the evidence with its own." Davis, 566 F. Supp. at 1195.
"[B]ecause the broad purposes of the Social Security Act require a
liberal construction in favor of disability, the Court must view the
evidence in the light most favorable to the claimant. This way, the Court
can give effect to the remedial purposes of the Social Security Act."
Davis v. Shalala, 862 F. Supp. 1, 4 (D.D.C. 1994) (internal citations
The Social Security Act defines disability as 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
42 U.S.C. § 423 (d)(1)(A). The inability to engage in substantial
gainful activity includes the inability to perform the claimant's
previous work or other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in
the national economy. 42 U.S.C. § 423 (d)(2)(A).
Claims for Social Security disability insurance benefits are evaluated
using a five-step process. A claimant may be found to have no disability
at any one of the sequential steps. The claimant must prove (1) that he
is not presently engaged in substantial gainful work, (2) that he has a
severe "impairment," and either (3) that he suffers for more than twelve
months from one or more listed impairments,*fn2 or (4) that he is
incapable of performing past relevant work.*fn3 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520
(b)-(e), 416.920(b)-(e). If the claimant prevails on the first four
steps, the fifth step shifts the burden to the Commissioner to make a
finding of, no disability only if the Commissioner proves that the
claimant, based upon his age, education, work experience and residual
functional capacity, is capable of performing other gainful work.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520 (f), 416.920(f). See Simms v. Sullivan,
877 F.2d 1047, 1049 (D.C.Cir. 1989); Brown v. Bowert, 794 F.2d at
In this case, the ALJ found that plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful work since 1994; that he suffered from "severe"
impairments that were not, however, "listed in, or medically equal to"
those under Appendix 1, Subpart P of the regulations; that he had no
transferrable work skills and that he had the residual functional
capacity to perform work within certain limitations. Record at 24-25. The
ALJ found that plaintiff was not disabled at step five of the sequential
disability evaluation process because a significant number of jobs were
available to plaintiff within his residual functional capacity. Plaintiff
disputes the ALJ's findings and asserts that the ALJ erred because, among
other things, he failed to include plaintiff's claims of pain in the
hypothetical to the vocational expert testifying at the hearing.
At the time of the ALJ's decision, plaintiff was 53 years old and
homeless. He graduated high school in 1962 and took college courses in
1978. Administrative Record ("AR") at 36-37. Plaintiff served in the
military from 1965-69 assigned to infantry, which he describes as "search
and destroy," Id. at 38. He identified no specific job duties while in
the military, even when pressed by the ALJ. See id. at 48-49. He was
honorably discharged upon completion of his enlistment period. Id.
Plaintiff began assembly-type work at Firestone in 1972, but was
discharged after he hurt his arm. Id. He claims to have "messed my back
and arm up" from having to lift 100 pounds at a time. Thereafter,
plaintiff held jobs "doing any type of work I could find." Id. He drove a
forklift for Sears and lifted about 75 pounds at a time, but left after a
"year or two" because his "arm was out of place" and he could no longer
perform the work. Id. at 40-41. Plaintiff worked temporary jobs because he
was "not able to perform [full time] work" due to sustaining a broken
knee in 1985 "and my arm was already out of place then after those two
conditions occurred, causing me to have to use my back more and now my
back has arthritis . . . ." Id. at 41. He was incarcerated from about 1976
to 1979. Plaintiff testified that he has been treated medically for
arthritis of the back and elbow, the latter which "can't be corrected."
Id. He testified about taking
pain medication, primarily for back spasms. Id. 42-44. At the first
hearing in 1995, plaintiff testified that he had worked for a temporary
service performing "light industrial" jobs for eight hours on average two
days a week, maybe 10 or 15 days a month, but not every month. Id. at
46, 58. Plaintiff testified that he is assigned to jobs "they think I can
do," but states that he "can't keep a job, because most of the time I
can't perform the work they want me to do." Id. at 47. He stated that he
could "hardly lift more than 25 pounds." Id. at 56. At the second hearing
in 1997, plaintiff testified that he had not worked since January 3,
1994, the day on which he filed his ...