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Thompson v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Maryland

May 27, 2016

CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.



         Plaintiff Tammy Thompson (“Ms. Thompson” 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 claim for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1383f. The parties consented to a referral to a United States Magistrate Judge for all proceedings and final disposition. See ECF Nos. 2, 5.[1]Pending and ready for resolution are Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 13) and Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14). No hearing is deemed necessary. See Local Rule 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). For the reasons set forth below, Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment will be granted and Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment will be denied.

         1. Background.

         On May 31, 2012 Ms. Thompson filed an application for SSI[2] alleging a disability onset date of December 15, 2010 due to mood disorder, depression, and attention deficit disorder. R. at 11, 122-25, 150-51. Ms. Thompson’s application was initially denied on August 28, 2012. R. at 89-92. On October 11, 2012 Ms. Thompson requested reconsideration. R. at 95. On December 10, 2012 the application was denied again. R. at 96-97. On January 10, 2013 Ms. Thompson requested a hearing by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). R. at 98. On January 14, 2014 an ALJ convened a hearing via video teleconference. R. at 42-62. Ms. Thompson was represented by counsel. Based on the advice of her counsel, Ms. Thompson voluntarily amended her alleged onset date of disability to May 31, 2012, the date of her application. R. at 44-45. During the hearing the ALJ obtained testimony from Ms. Thompson and a vocational expert (“VE”). In the February 21, 2014 decision the ALJ found Ms. Thompson has not been under a disability as defined in the Social Security Act, since May 31, 2012, the date her application was filed. R. at 20. On March 7, 2014 Ms. Thompson requested a review of the hearing decision. R. at 7. On March 26, 2015 the Appeals Council denied Ms. Thompson’s request for review, R. at 1-3, making the ALJ’s determination the Commissioner’s final decision.

         2. ALJ’s Decision.

         The ALJ evaluated Ms. Thompson’s claim for SSI using the sequential evaluation process set forth in 20 C.F.R. § 416.920 (2013). Ms. Thompson bears the burden of demonstrating her disability as to the first four steps. At step five the burden shifts to the Commissioner. Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632, 635 (4th Cir. 2015).

         At step one the ALJ found Ms. Thompson has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 31, 2012, the amended alleged onset date. R. at 13. The ALJ concluded at step two that Ms. Thompson has the following severe impairments: Depression (NOS[3]), Anxiety (NOS), and a Personality Disorder. Id. Also at this step the ALJ found all other alleged impairments[4]non-severe “because they did not exist for a continuous period of at least 12 months, were responsive to medication, did not require any significant medical treatment, or did not result in any continuous exertional or nonexertional functional limitations.” Id. (citations omitted).

         At step three the ALJ found Ms. Thompson does not have an impairment or combination of impairments which meets or medically equals a listed impairment. The ALJ specifically considered Listings 12.04 (affective disorders), 12.06 (anxiety related disorders), and 12.08 (personality disorders). In accordance with 20 C.F.R. § 416.920a the ALJ followed a special technique to evaluate the severity of Ms. Thompson’s mental impairments. The four broad functional areas-(1) activities of daily living, (2) social functioning, (3) concentration, persistence, or pace, and (4) episodes of decompensation-are known as the “paragraph B” criteria for most of the mental disorders listed in Appendix 1.

         The ALJ determined Ms. Thomspon has a mild restriction in her activities of daily living.

The claimant testified she had no problems walking, standing, or sitting. She reported largely spending the day sitting in her bedroom or taking naps secondary to depression. She denied being able to perform housework, but stated she could shop for supplies and cooks occasionally. The claimant reported the hobby of watching television.

R. at 14. In addition to her testimony the ALJ considered the June 27, 2012 and November 13, 2012 Functions Reports completed by Ms. Thompson. See R. at 156-63, 171-78.

In the reports, she stated that additional activities, including playing with her grandchild, taking care of others, preparing complete meals on a daily basis, shopping for food/clothing once a month for 2 hours in duration, and doing laundry. Despite her testimony that she was too depressed to largely perform household chores, the claimant noted in the report that [she] was able to go outside on a daily basis, unaccompanied, and she could travel by walking or riding in an automobile. She reported no problems in tending to her personal needs and grooming and did not require reminders.

R. at 14.

         With regard to social functioning, the ALJ found Ms. Thompson has mild difficulties. Ms. Thompson testified the she does not socialize outside of her home. R. at 51. In the Function Reports she claimed difficulties conversing with others and getting along with others. However “[i]n the reports, she also noted the activities of playing with her grandchild and taking care of others. The claimant reported attending ...

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