United States District Court, D. Maryland
August 26, 2015, Plaintiff Robin Wiseman petitioned this
Court to review the Social Security Administration's
final decision to deny her claim for Disability Insurance
Benefits ("DIB"). (ECF No. 1). I have considered
the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. (ECF
Nos. 15, 18). I find that no hearing is necessary.
See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2014). This Court must
uphold the decision of the Agency if it is supported by
substantial evidence and if the Agency employed proper legal
standards. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g);
1383(c)(3); Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th
Cir. 1996). Under that standard, I will deny Ms.
Wiseman's motion, grant the Commissioner's motion,
and affirm the Commissioner's judgment pursuant to
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This letter
explains my rationale.
Wiseman filed her claim for DIB, alleging a disability onset
date of March 1, 2012. (Tr. 129-37). Her claim was denied
initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. 78-81, 85-86). A
hearing was held on August 20, 2014, before an Administrative
Law Judge ("ALJ"). (Tr. 22-61). Following the
hearing, the ALJ determined that Ms. Wiseman was not disabled
within the meaning of the Social Security Act during the
relevant time frame. (Tr. 8-21). The Appeals Council denied
Ms. Wiseman's request for review, (Tr. 1-4), so the
ALJ's decision constitutes the final, reviewable decision
of the Agency.
found that Ms. Wiseman suffered from the severe impairments
of asthma, obesity, ischemic heart disease, and type 2
diabetes mellitus. (Tr. 13). Despite these impairments, the
ALJ determined that Ms. Wiseman retained the residual
functional capacity ("RFC") to:
perform light work, as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b), except
that she can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; she
can no more than occasionally climb ramps or stairs and
stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; and, she should avoid
exposure to workplace hazards such as unprotected machinery
(Tr. 14). After considering the testimony of a vocational
expert ("VE"), the ALJ determined that Ms. Wiseman
could perform past relevant work as a cashier and a retail
supervisor, both as actually and generally performed, and
that, therefore, she was not disabled. (Tr. 17).
Wiseman raises three arguments on appeal. First, she argues
that the ALJ did not adequately provide a foundation for the
conclusion regarding her ability to stand or walk during a
workday, and did not consider the standing and walking
requirements of her past relevant work. Second, she contends
that the ALJ erred in failing to assess an RFC limitation
pertaining to her asthma. Finally, she argues that the ALJ
failed to consider all of her impairments in combination.
Each of Ms. Wiseman's arguments lacks merit and is
Ms. Wiseman argues that the ALJ relied upon the opinions of
the State agency physicians, but did not include their
limitation that she could only stand or walk for two hours
during an eight-hour workday. Pl. Mot. 6. In fact, however,
the ALJ explained that "some weight" was afforded
to the findings of the State medical consultants, and the ALJ
proceeded to explain other areas with which the ALJ
disagreed. (Tr. 16-17). As to standing and walking, the ALJ
explained, "There is no evidence of a significant
musculoskeletal abnormality that would limit her ability to
walk, stand, and sit for the duration she testified. In
addition, she testified that she was prescribed a cane by Dr.
Howard, but that is not documented in her treatment notes.
Furthermore, physical examinations of record have been
essentially normal, showing normal gait, muscle tone,
strength, and range of movement." (Tr. 17). Although the
ALJ did not provide specific citations to those physical
examinations of record, a review of the record confirms the
accuracy of the ALJ's assessment, and does not reveal any
medical records corroborating Ms. Wiseman's testimony
about her limitations. See, e.g., (Tr. 611, 649). In
fact, the primary record discussing Ms. Wiseman's leg
pain in August, 2013 reveals that her physician suggested
that she should be walking daily for exercise. (Tr. 612).
Thus, the ALJ adequately explained the divergence from the
opinions of the State agency physicians as to limitations on
Ms. Wiseman's ability to stand and walk.
Wiseman is correct that the ALJ did not conduct a full
inquiry into the standing and walking requirements of her
past relevant work. However, because the ALJ found no
limitation pertaining to Ms. Wiseman's ability to stand
and walk, any such inquiry would not have been relevant to
the assessment of whether Ms. Wiseman could perform her past
relevant work as a cashier or retail supervisor.
Ms. Wiseman argues that the ALJ determined her asthma to be a
severe impairment, but did not include any RFC limitation to
address asthma. Pl. Mot. 9. The ALJ also explained that
decision, stating, "With regard to the claimant's
respiratory issues, the medical record documents only a few
episodes of acute exacerbations." (Tr. 17). Ms. Wiseman
does not explain, and the medical records do not indicate,
what specific functional limitations are caused by her
asthma. Accordingly, I find no error in the ALJ's
Ms. Wiseman suggests that the ALJ did not consider the
combination of her leg pain, respiratory issues, and obesity
as it would affect her ability to stand and walk. In fact, as
described above, the ALJ cited to the medical records showing
essentially normal physical examinations with respect to
walking and standing. This Court's role is not to reweigh
the evidence or to substitute its judgment for that of the
ALJ, but simply to adjudicate whether the ALJ's decision
was supported by substantial evidence. See Hays v.
Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). Here, the
ALJ's decision meets that standard.
reasons set forth herein, Ms. Wiseman's Motion for
Summary Judgment (ECF No. 15) is DENIED and Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 18) is GRANTED. The
Commissioner's judgment is AFFIRMED pursuant to sentence
four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The Clerk is directed to
CLOSE this case.
the informal nature of this letter, it should be flagged as
an opinion and docketed as an order.
Stephanie A. Gallagher United ...