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Holmes v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Divsion

March 25, 2015

GARY HOLMES, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S ALTERNATIVE MOTION FOR REMAND

THOMAS M. DiGIROLAMO, Magistrate Judge.

Gary Holmes ("Plaintiff") seeks judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security ("Defendant" or the "Commissioner") denying his application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") under Title II of the Social Security Act. Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment or Alternative Motion for Remand (ECF No. 17) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 19).[1] Plaintiff contends that the administrative record does not contain substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision that he is not disabled. No hearing is necessary. L.R. 105.6. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's Alternative Motion for Remand (ECF No. 17) is GRANTED.

I

Background

Plaintiff was born in 1962, has a GED, and previously worked as a support service officer. R. at 26-27, 147. Plaintiff protectively applied for DIB on April 5, 2010, alleging disability beginning on March 30, 2010, due to plantar fasciitis, hallux valgus, diabetes, high blood pressure, and bone problems. R. at 115-19, 141, 146. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application initially and again on reconsideration, so Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). R. at 56-75, 78-80. On July 26, 2012, ALJ Eugene Bond held a hearing at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. R. at 22-34. On August 15, 2012, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled from the alleged onset date of disability of March 30, 2010, through the date of the decision. R. at 8-21. Plaintiff sought review of this decision by the Appeals Council, which denied Plaintiff's request for review on September 26, 2013. R. at 1-7. The ALJ's decision thus became the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981; see also Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07, 120 S.Ct. 2080, 2083 (2000).

On November 25, 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

The ALJ reviewed in his decision the opinion evidence of record:

Sushma Chandan, M.D., a treating podiatrist, opined on February 8, 2010, that [Plaintiff] can perform work requiring "sitting and walking intermittently 30-90 minutes per day."...
David J. Novak, M.D., a treating physician, opined on December 6, [2000], that [Plaintiff] has limited ability to stand for long periods of time and must take breaks from standing or walking every 1-2 hours. Cedrella C. Jones-Taylor, M.D., a treating internist, opined on January 13, 2005, that [Plaintiff's] foot conditions "limit his ability to stand and walk for long periods of time." Sushma Chandan, M.D., a treating podiatrist, opined on February 7, 2005, that "it will be difficult for [Plaintiff] to do work that requires sitting and standing for six hours per day." On June 21, 2005, she further opined that [Plaintiff] "is unable to perform his duties that require standing for six hours per day. However, [Plaintiff] is not totally disabled and should be able to perform duties requiring a combination of sitting, standing, and walking." Duane A. McKinney, DPM, a treating podiatrist, opined on March 30, 2010, that "it will be difficult for [Plaintiff] to perform duties that require standing and walking for 8 hours per day."

R. at 15 (citations omitted); see R. at 237-43.

On September 15, 2010, Patricia Schiff, M.D., a state agency medical consultant, assessed Plaintiff's physical residual functional capacity ("RFC"). R. at 376-83. Dr. Schiff opined that Plaintiff could (1) lift and/or carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently; (2) stand and/or walk for a total of at least two hours in an eight-hour workday; (3) sit for about six hours in an eight-hour workday; and (4) occasionally push and/or pull with the lower extremities. R. at 377. Plaintiff occasionally could balance and stoop and frequently could kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps and stairs (but never ladders, ropes, or scaffolds). R. at 378. His environmental limitations included avoiding moderate exposure to vibration and avoiding concentrated exposure to unprotected heights. R. at 380. He had no manipulative, visual, or communicative limitations, however. R. at 379-80.

On July 20, 2011, another state agency medical consultant, Eduardo Haim, M.D., also assessed Plaintiff's physical RFC. R. at 62-63. Dr. Haim opined that Plaintiff could (1) lift and/or carry 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently; (2) stand and/or walk for a total of about six hours in an eight-hour workday; (3) sit for about six hours in an eight-hour workday; and (4) perform unlimited pushing and/or pulling. R. at 62. Plaintiff occasionally could climb ladders, ropes, and scaffolds. R. at 62. He could perform unlimited balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, ...


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