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Marshall v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

November 12, 2014

SHERRI MARSHALL, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

THOMAS M. DIGIROLAMO, Magistrate Judge.

Sherri Marshall ("Plaintiff")[1] seeks judicial review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or the "Commissioner") denying her application for Supplemental Security Income ("SSI") under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 18).[2] Plaintiff contends that the administrative record does not contain substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision that she is not disabled. No hearing is necessary. L.R. 105.6. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 18) is GRANTED, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16) is DENIED, and the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED.

I

Background

Plaintiff was born in 1960, has a tenth-grade education, and previously worked as a maintenance worker, sandwich maker, and caregiver. R. at 22-23, 189. Plaintiff applied for SSI on May 17, 2009, alleging disability beginning on May 8, 2009, due to a broken right ankle. R. at 12, 155-57, 185. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application initially and again on reconsideration; consequently, Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). R. at 78-86. After a hearing on May 3, 2011, was continued (R. at 28-31), ALJ C.J. Sturek held a hearing in Washington, D.C., on June 29, 2011, at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. R. at 32-63. On January 11, 2012, the ALJ held a supplemental hearing where Plaintiff and another VE testified. R. at 64-77. On February 9, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled since the application date of May 17, 2009. R. at 9-27. Plaintiff sought review of this decision by the Appeals Council, which denied Plaintiff's request for review on March 28, 2013. R. at 1-4, 7. The ALJ's decision thus became the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481; see also Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07, 120 S.Ct. 2080, 2083 (2000).

On May 31, 2013, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking review of the Commissioner's decision. Upon the parties' consent, this case was transferred to a United States Magistrate Judge for final disposition and entry of judgment. The case subsequently was reassigned to the undersigned. The parties have briefed the issues, and the matter is now fully submitted.

II

Summary of Evidence

A. Opinion Evidence

On September 21, 2011, Vaul Phillips, M.D., conducted a consultative physical examination of Plaintiff. R. at 298-312. Dr. Phillips opined:

In my opinion, [Plaintiff] can sit for 8 hours per 8 hour day with a 15 minute break every 4 hours to stand and stretch. She can stand for 120 minutes at a time for a total of 4 hours per 8 hour day, and walk for 60 minutes at a time for a total of 3 hours per 8 hour day. She can exert 20 to 50 pounds of force occasionally, and/or 10 to 25 pounds of force frequently, and/or greater than negligible up to 10 pounds of force constantly to move objects. In addition, she should be able to lift and carry approximately 10 pounds, continuously and 20 pounds, occasionally.

R. at 311; see R. at 16, 19-20.

On September 30, 2011, Alla Taller, M.D., conducted a consultative psychiatric examination of Plaintiff. R. at 16, 20, 313-17. Dr. Taller's diagnoses included adjustment disorder with depressed mood due to a chronic stressor, learning disorder not otherwise specified, and rule out mood disorder secondary to a general medical condition. R. at 315. Dr. Taller reported that Plaintiff's "capacity for understanding was preserved; her sustained concentration and short-term memory were diminished." R. at 315. "Her social interaction was notable for some irritability and superficial engagement ...


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