United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
Charles B. Day United States Magistrate Judge
Washington ("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 ("Defendant") denying
Plaintiff's application for Supplemental Security Income
("SSI") Benefits. Before the Court are
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment
("Plaintiff's Motion") (ECF No. 12) and
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
("Defendant's Motion") (ECF No. 14). 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 Defendant's Motion, and
REMANDS this matter to the Commissioner for
further proceedings in accordance with this opinion.
applied for SSI benefits on June 28, 2011, alleging
disability beginning on January 1, 2010. R. 16. The claim was
denied on September 1, 2011. Id. Plaintiff's
request for reconsideration of the denial of benefits was
denied on October 1, 2012. Id. On November 9, 2012,
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge ("ALJ"). Id. On October 24, 2013,
Plaintiff had a hearing before an ALJ, and on January 30,
2014, in a written decision, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff was not disabled under section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the
Social Security Act. R. 16-29.
February 27, 2014, Plaintiff requested a review of the
ALJ's decision of January 30, 2014. R. 12. 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. § 416.905(a) (2012). The Code
of Federal Regulations outlines a five-step sequential
process that the Defendant must follow to determine if a
claimant meets this definition:
1) Determine whether the plaintiff is "doing substantial
gainful activity." 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(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 § 416.909, or a
combination of impairments that is severe and meets the
duration requirement." 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(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 to subpart P of part 404 of this chapter and meets
the duration requirement." 20 C.F.R. §
416.920(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. § 416.920(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. § 416.920(a)(4)(v). If he
can perform other work, ...