United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
THOMAS E. MIDDLEKAUFF Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN Acting Commissioner, Social Security Administration Defendant.
Charles B. Day United States Magistrate Judge
E. Middlekauff, (“Plaintiff”) brought this action
under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the
final decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner”) denying
Plaintiff’s claim for a period of Disability Insurance
Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social
Security Act. Before the Court are Plaintiff’s Motion
for Summary Judgment (“Plaintiff’s Motion”)
(ECF No. 12) and Defendant’s Motion for Summary
Judgment (“Commissioner’s Motion”) (ECF No.
13). The Court has reviewed the motions, related memoranda,
and the applicable law. No hearing is deemed necessary.
See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md.). For the reasons
presented below, the Court hereby DENIES Plaintiff’s
Motion, and GRANTS Commissioner’s Motion.
applied for DIB on May 24, 2011, alleging disability
beginning on June 18, 2009. R. 14. The claim was denied on
November 1, 2011. Id. After Plaintiff asked for
reconsideration of the denial of benefits, Defendant again
denied Plaintiff’s benefits application on July 24,
2012. Id. On August 21, 2012, Plaintiff requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). R. 138-39. On February 4, 2014,
Plaintiff had a hearing before an ALJ, and on February 24,
2014, in a written decision, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff was not disabled under sections 216(i) and 223(d)
of the Social Security Act. R. 14-23.
April 1, 2014, Plaintiff requested a review of the
ALJ’s decision of February 24, 2014. R. 9-10. On April
3, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’ request
for review. R. 1-3.
Standard of Review
appeal, the Court has the power to affirm, modify, or reverse
the decision of the ALJ “with or without remanding the
cause for a rehearing.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2006).
The Court must affirm the ALJ’s decision if it is
supported by substantial evidence and the ALJ applied the
correct law. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (“The findings of
the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if
supported by substantial evidence, shall be
conclusive.”); see also Russell v. Comm'r of
Soc. Sec., 440 F. App’x 163, 164 (4th Cir. 2011).
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 v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (quoting
Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229
(1938)) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also
Shively v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 987, 989 (4th Cir. 1984)
(quoting Laws v. Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th
Cir. 1966)) (internal quotation marks omitted) (“It
consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be
somewhat less than a preponderance. If there is evidence to
justify a refusal to direct a verdict were the case before a
jury, then there is substantial evidence.”).
Court does not review the evidence presented below de
novo, nor does the Court “determine the weight of
the evidence” or “substitute its judgment for
that of the Secretary if his decision is supported by
substantial evidence.” Hays v. Sullivan, 907
F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). The ALJ, not the Court, has
the responsibility to make findings of fact and resolve
evidentiary conflicts. Id. If the ALJ’s
factual finding, however, “was reached by means of an
improper standard or misapplication of the law, ” then
that finding is not binding on the Court. Coffman v.
Bowen, 829 F.2d 514, 517 (4th Cir. 1987).
Court shall find a person legally disabled if he is unable
“to do 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.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a)
(2012). The Code of Federal Regulations outlines a five-step
process that the Commissioner must follow to determine if a
claimant meets this definition:
1) Determine whether the plaintiff is “doing
substantial gainful activity.” 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(i). If he is doing such activity, he is not
disabled. If he is not doing such activity, proceed to step
2) Determine whether the plaintiff has a “severe
medically determinable physical or mental impairment that
meets the duration requirement in § 404.1509, or a
combination of impairments that is severe and meets the
duration requirement.” 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(ii). If he does not have such impairment or
combination of impairments, he is not disabled. If he does
meet these requirements, proceed to step three.
3) Determine whether the plaintiff has an impairment that
“meets or equals one of [the C.F.R.’s] listings
in appendix 1 of this subpart and meets the duration
requirement.” 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii). If
he does have such impairment, he is disabled. If he does not,
proceed to step four.
4) Determine whether the plaintiff retains the
“residual functional capacity” to perform
“past relevant work.” 20 C.F.R. §
404.1520(a)(4)(iv). If he can perform such work, he is not
disabled. If he cannot, proceed to step five.
5) Determine whether the plaintiff can perform other work,
considering his residual functional capacity, age, education,
and work experience. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v). If
he can perform other work, ...