United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
Charles B. Day United States Magistrate Judge.
Montgomery ("Plaintiff") brought this action under
Section 205(g) of the Social Security Act, 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. 10) and
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
("Commissioner's Motion") (ECF No. 11). 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 GRANTS Plaintiff's Motion, DENIES
Commissioner's Motion, and REMANDS this matter to the
Commissioner for further proceedings consistent with this
December 20, 2011 Plaintiff filed a Title II application for
a period of disability and disability insurance benefits,
alleging disability beginning December 5, 2011. R. 15. The
claim was initially denied on June 12, 2012, and denied again
upon reconsideration on November 26, 2012. Id. On
November 30, 2012, Plaintiff filed a request for a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ").
Id. Plaintiff appeared and testified at a hearing on
February 11, 2014. Id. On March 6, 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. 22. On April 8, 2014, Plaintiff requested a
review of the ALJ's decision. R. 10. On April 8, 2015,
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's 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) (2015).
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) (2015) ("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 Fed.App'x 163, 164 (4th Cir. 2011)
(citing Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th
Cir. 1990)). Substantial evidence is "more than a mere
scintilla." Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S.
389, 401 (1971) (quoting Consolidated Edison Co. v.
NLRB, 305 U.S. 197, 229 (1938)). "It means such
relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion." Id.; 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, 907 F.2d at 1456 (citations
omitted). The ALJ, not the Court, has the responsibility to
make findings of fact and resolve evidentiary conflicts.
Id. (citations omitted). 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) (citations
Court shall find a person legally disabled under Title II 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 two.
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" ("RFC") 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 RFC, age, education, and work experience. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v). If he can perform other