United States District Court, D. Maryland
WILLIAM CONNELLY, Magistrate Judge.
Plaintiff Mary Irene Jenkins ("Ms. Jenkins" or "Plaintiff") brought this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Commissioner" or "Defendant") denying her claims for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Titles II and XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-433, 1381-1383f. The parties consented to a referral to a United States Magistrate Judge for all proceedings and final disposition. See ECF Nos. 4, 7-8. Pending and ready for resolution is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 13). No hearing is deemed necessary.
See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2011). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted.
On August 28, 2008 Ms. Jenkins filed applications for DIB and SSI alleging a disability onset date of June 17, 2006 due to back impairment and left leg impairment. R. at 12, 222-28, 261. Ms. Jenkins' applications were denied initially on November 19, 2008. R. at 89-96. On January 5, 2009 Ms. Jenkins requested reconsideration. R. at 102, 104-05. On June 19, 2009 the claims were denied again. R. at 106-09. On July 2, 2009 Ms. Jenkins requested a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). R. at 110-11.
On September 1, 2010 the ALJ convened a hearing. R. at 25-38. Ms. Jenkins appeared without any representation. The ALJ advised Ms. Jenkins about her rights to a representative (either counsel or non-attorney representative). Ms. Jenkins elected to obtain a representative. The ALJ therefore continued the hearing to permit Ms. Jenkins to obtain a representative.
On February 17, 2011 the ALJ convened a second hearing. R. at 39-49. Ms. Jenkins appeared with a non-attorney representative, Ms. Winrick. During this second hearing Ms. Winrick requested a consultative examination due to damage to Ms. Jenkins' left shoulder resulting from an assault. R. at 44-45. The ALJ granted the request. In reviewing Ms. Jenkins' record, the ALJ noted her 9th grade education. The ALJ, sua sponte, ordered a consultative examination for psychological testing. R. at 45-46. The necessity of a supplemental hearing would depend on the results of the consultative examinations. R. at 47.
On July 8, 2011 a supplemental hearing was convened. R. at 50-82. Ms. Jenkins appeared and was represented by Ms. Winrick, non-attorney representative. The ALJ obtained testimony from Ms. Jenkins and a vocational expert ("VE"). In the August 3, 2011 decision the ALJ found Ms. Jenkins has not been under a disability, as defined by the Act, from June 17, 2006 through the date of the decision. R. at 19. Ms. Jenkins requested a review of the hearing decision. R. at 7. On June 5, 2012 the Appeals Council denied Ms. Jenkins' request for review, R. at 1-6, thus making the ALJ's determination the Commissioner's final decision.
2. ALJ's Decision.
The ALJ evaluated Ms. Jenkins' claims for DIB and SSI using the sequential evaluation process set forth in 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920. Ms. Jenkins bears the burden of demonstrating her disability as to the first four steps. At step five the burden shifts to the Commissioner. If Ms. Jenkins' claims fail at any step of the process, the ALJ does not advance to the subsequent steps. Pass v. Chater, 65 F.3d 1200, 1203 (4th Cir. 1995). At step one the ALJ found Ms. Jenkins has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since June 17, 2006, the alleged onset date of disability. R. at 14. The ALJ concluded at step two that Ms. Jenkins has the following severe impairments: obesity, back pain and shoulder pain. R. at 15. With regard to Ms. Jenkins' obesity the ALJ noted, "the claimant stated her weight was 212 pounds and height was five feet and five inches. That equates to a body mass index score of 35.3. A score of 30 or higher is generally accepted as f[alling] within the obesity category." Id.
The ALJ further determined Ms. Jenkins has the following non-severe impairments: high blood pressure and high cholesterol, bronchitis and lacerations. Id. The ALJ found Ms. Jenkins' high blood pressure and high cholesterol non-severe because these impairments are under control with medication and there is no evidence in the record of any complications associated with these impairments. The ALJ found Ms. Jenkins' bronchitis non-severe because Ms. Jenkins had one episode only of "acute" bronchitis documented in the record. The ALJ noted Ms. Jenkins "does smoke tobacco products, but there is no evidence of a severe impairment as a result." Id. (citation omitted). As for the lacerations, these were the result of an assault. Ms. Jenkins was treated at the hospital and released the same day. "The incident was a single occurrence and sutures were removed and the injuries described as well healed' on June 19, 2010." Id. (citation omitted).
At step three the ALJ determined Ms. Jenkins does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the criteria of any of the listed impairments described in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. "The medical evidence does not document listing-level severity, and no acceptable medical source has mentioned findings equivalent in severity to the criteria of any listed impairment, singly or combined." R. at 15.
Next the ALJ determined Ms. Jenkins' residual functional capacity ("RFC"). The ALJ found Ms. Jenkins "has the residual functional capacity to perform less than the full range of light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b). She is able to understand, remember and execute simple instructions." R. at 15.
At step four the ALJ found, in light of the VE's testimony, the demands of Ms. Jenkins' past relevant work (a variety of positions with a fast food restaurant including grill cook) exceed Ms. Jenkins' RFC. R. at 18. At step five the ALJ considered Ms. Jenkins' age (43 years old on the alleged disability onset date), her education (limited; 9th grade; able to communicate in English), past work experience (transferability of job skills is not an issue) and her RFC (less than the full range of light work, restricted to simple, routine work). The ALJ found the Social Security Administration met its burden of proving that Ms. Jenkins is capable of performing various other jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy, relying on the testimony of the VE. R. at 19, 77-79. Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Jenkins is not disabled within the meaning of the Act. R. at 19.
3. Standard of Review.
The role of this court on review is to determine whether substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's decision and whether the Commissioner applied the correct legal standards. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Pass v. Chater, 65 F.3d at 1202; Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). Substantial evidence is "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). It is more than a scintilla, but less than a preponderance, of the evidence presented, Shively v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 987, 989 (4th Cir. 1984) (citations omitted), and it must be sufficient to justify a refusal to direct a verdict if the ...