United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
M. DiGirolamo, United States Magistrate Judge.
Ivy Gale 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 applications for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles
II and XVI of the Social Security Act. Before the Court are
Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 12)
and Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No.
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. 13) is GRANTED, Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 12) is DENIED, and the Commissioner’s
final decision is AFFIRMED.
was born in 1965, has a high-school education, and previously
worked as an account clerk and retail store manager. R. at
20, 197-98. Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on June
28, 2011, and protectively filed an application for SSI on
March 7, 2012, alleging disability beginning on May 18, 2011,
due to multiple sclerosis; numbness in the legs, feet, arms,
hands, and fingers; high blood pressure; and neck and body
pain. R. at 13, 162-72, 192, 196. The Commissioner denied
Plaintiff’s applications initially and again on
reconsideration, so Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). R. at 45-88,
96-112. On September 13, 2013, ALJ F.H. Ayer held a hearing
in Washington, D.C., at which Plaintiff and a vocational
expert (“VE”) testified. R. at 23-44. At the
hearing, Plaintiff amended her alleged onset date of
disability to January 1, 2012. R. at 26-27. On September 26,
2013, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not
disabled from the amended alleged onset date of disability of
January 1, 2012, through the date of the decision. R. at
10-21. Plaintiff sought review of this decision by the
Appeals Council, which denied Plaintiff’s request for
review on June 1, 2015. R. at 1-3, 6-9. The ALJ’s
decision thus became the final decision of the Commissioner.
See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481;
see also Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07, 120
S.Ct. 2080, 2083 (2000).
31, 2015, 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.
Summary of Evidence
State Agency Medical Consultants
September 29, 2011, a state agency medical consultant, H.
Stevens, M.D., assessed Plaintiff’s physical residual
functional capacity (“RFC”). R. at 49-50. Dr.
Stevens opined that Plaintiff could (1) lift and/or carry
twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently; (2)
stand and/or walk for a total of about two 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 49. Plaintiff had no postural, visual,
communicative, or environmental limitations, but her handling
and fingering with the right upper extremity were limited. R.
at 49-50. Her feeling in both extremities was limited. R. at
12, 2012, another state agency consultant, John Sadler, M.D.,
again assessed Plaintiff’s physical RFC. R. at 61-63,
74-76. Dr. Sadler opined that, because of her history of
multiple sclerosis, hypertension, and carpal tunnel syndrome,
Plaintiff could (1) lift and/or carry twenty pounds
occasionally and ten pounds frequently; (2) stand and/or walk
for a total of about two 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 61, 74.
Plaintiff could never crawl, but she frequently could balance
and occasionally could stoop, kneel, crouch, and climb ramps
and stairs (but never ladders, ropes, or scaffolds). R. at
62, 75. She had no visual or communicative limitations, but
her handling, fingering, and feeling were limited in her
right upper extremity, and she was to avoid concentrated
exposure to extreme cold and heat, vibration, and hazards. R.
at 62-63, 75-76.
testified that a hypothetical individual with
Plaintiff’s same age, education, and work experience
with the RFC outlined below in Part III (plus a limitation to
“occasionally handle, finger, and feel with the
dominant right upper extremity”) could not perform
Plaintiff’s past relevant work but could perform the
unskilled, sedentary jobs of security worker, finish machine
tender, or quality-control worker. R. at 27-30. A
person’s functioning at 80% or less compared to other
individuals performing similar tasks would not be employable.
R. at 31. A person absent from work two days per month would
not be employable. R. at 31. With the exception of his
testimony regarding productivity, absenteeism, and a
sit-stand option, the VE’s testimony was consistent
with the Dictionary of Occupational
Titles (the “DOT”). R. at 29-31.
then testified that daily pain prevented her from working. R.
at 34. She would have three or four “bad days” in
a week during which she would experience numbness in her
fingers affecting her ability to grasp objects. R. at 34-35.
Her numbness in her hands affected her ability to cook. R. at
36. The numbness in her feet affected her ability to walk,
and she could stand for twenty minutes. R. at 36-37. Her pain
interfered with her ability to fall asleep quickly. R. at
37-38. She had worn braces for two years. R. at 38.
further testified that she had difficulty with concentrating
and focusing. R. at 39. When she is stressed and must leave
her home, her pain is “a seven or eight.” R. at
40. According to Plaintiff, she stopped working because her
multiple sclerosis worsened, and she could not return to work
because a stressful environment would exacerbate her
condition. R. at 40-42.
Summary of ALJ’s Decision
September 26, 2013, the ALJ found that Plaintiff (1) had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since the amended
alleged onset date of disability of January 1, 2012; and (2)
had an impairment or a combination of impairments considered
to be “severe” on the basis of the requirements
in the Code of Federal Regulations; but (3) did not have an
impairment or a combination of impairments meeting or
equaling one of the impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. pt.
404, subpt. P, app. 1; and (4) was unable to perform her past
relevant work; but (5) could perform other work in the
national economy, such as a security worker, ...