Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

McLaughlin v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

August 3, 2016

JUDITH McLAUGHLIN, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S ALTERNATIVE MOTION FOR REMAND

          THOMAS M. DIGIROLAMO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Judith McLaughlin seeks judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or the “Commissioner”) denying her application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act. Before the Court are Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment and alternative motion for remand (ECF No. 14) and Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 17).[1] 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, Plaintiff’s alternative motion for remand (ECF No. 14) is GRANTED.

         I Background

         Plaintiff was born in 1963, has a high-school education, and previously worked as an administrative assistant. R. at 33, 210-11. Plaintiff protectively filed an application for DIB on November 16, 2012, alleging disability beginning on July 22, 2011, due to, among other impairments, fibromyalgia, migraines, major depressive disorder, anxiety disorder, and panic disorder. R. at 185-86, 206, 209. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff’s application initially and again on reconsideration, so Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). R. at 80-120, 125-28. On May 19, 2014, ALJ Stewart Goldstein held a hearing at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. R. at 41-79. On July 31, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled from the alleged onset date of disability of July 22, 2011, through the date of the decision. R. at 18-40. Plaintiff sought review of this decision by the Appeals Council, which denied Plaintiff’s request for review on December 31, 2014. R. at 1-6, 14. The ALJ’s decision thus became the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981; see also Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07, 120 S.Ct. 2080, 2083 (2000).

         On February 27, 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.

         II Summary of Evidence

         A. State Agency Medical Consultants

         On April 9, 2013, a state agency consultant, Richard K. Lyon, Ph.D., using the psychiatric review technique (“PRT”) under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520a, evaluated Plaintiff’s mental impairments under Listings 12.04 and 12.06 relating to affective disorders and anxiety-related disorders (R. at 88-90). See 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1, §§ 12.04, 12.06. Dr. Lyon opined that, under paragraph B of the applicable listings, Plaintiff’s mental impairments caused her to experience (1) mild restriction in activities of daily living; (2) mild difficulties in maintaining social functioning; (3) moderate difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; and (4) no episodes of decompensation of extended duration. R. at 89. Dr. Lyon did not find evidence to establish the presence of the criteria under paragraph C of the applicable listings. R. at 89. Dr. Lyon thus assessed Plaintiff’s mental residual functional capacity (“RFC”) (R. at 92-94) and opined that she was moderately limited in her ability to (1) understand, remember, and carry out detailed instructions; (2) maintain attention and concentration for extended periods; (3) complete a normal workday and workweek without interruptions from psychologically based symptoms and to perform at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number and length of rest periods; and to (4) respond appropriately to changes in the work setting. R. at 92-93. Plaintiff otherwise was not significantly limited. R. at 92-94.

         On April 23, 2013, another state agency consultant, W. Hakkarinen, M.D., assessed Plaintiff’s physical RFC. R. at 91-92. Dr. Hakkarinen 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 six 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 91. Plaintiff occasionally could climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. R. at 91-92. Plaintiff had no manipulative, visual, communicative, or environmental limitations. R. at 92.

         On July 11, 2013, another state agency consultant, A. Serpick, M.D., again assessed Plaintiff’s physical RFC. R. at 109-10. Dr. Serpick 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 six 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 109-10. Plaintiff occasionally could climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. R. at 110. Plaintiff had no manipulative, visual, communicative, or environmental limitations. R. at 110.

         On July 27, 2013, another state agency consultant, Maurice Prout, Ph.D., again used the PRT to evaluate Plaintiff’s mental impairments under Listings 12.04 and 12.06. R. at 106-08. Dr. Prout opined that, under paragraph B of the applicable listings, Plaintiff’s mental impairments caused her to experience (1) mild restriction in activities of daily living; (2) mild difficulties in maintaining social functioning; (3) moderate difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; and (4) no episodes of decompensation of extended duration. R. at 107. Dr. Prout did not find evidence to establish the presence of the criteria under paragraph C of the applicable listings. R. at 107. Dr. Prout thus assessed Plaintiff’s mental RFC (R. at 110-12) and opined that she was moderately limited in her ability to (1) understand, remember, and carry out detailed instructions; (2) maintain attention and concentration for extended periods; (3) complete a normal workday and workweek without interruptions from psychologically based symptoms and to perform at a consistent pace without an unreasonable number and length of rest periods; and to (4) respond appropriately to changes in the work setting. R. at 111-12. Plaintiff otherwise was not significantly limited. R. at 111-12.

         B. Hearing Testimony

         1. Plaintiff’s Testimony

         The ALJ reviewed Plaintiff’s testimony in his decision:

In her written statements and testimony, [Plaintiff] reported experiencing widespread pain (including pain in her shoulders, neck, back, hips, upper and lower extremities, and knees), muscle spasms and stiffness, left foot swelling, migraine headaches, fatigue, brain fog, feelings of depression and anxiety, panic attacks, auditory hallucinations, suicidal ideation, sleep disturbance, and difficulty leaving her house [R. at 208-19, 233-50]. She estimated in her testimony that she experiences a panic attack approximately once weekly, and migraine headaches two to three times monthly, lasting for two to three days. She reported having difficulty lifting, squatting, bending, standing, reaching, walking, sitting, kneeling, climbing stairs, using her hands, remembering, completing tasks, concentrating, understanding, and following instructions [R. at 208-19, 233-50]. [Plaintiff] reported taking medication for her impairments [R. at 208-19, 233-50], and she testified that she experiences drowsiness as a medication side effect. Despite her impairments, [Plaintiff] reported in her written statements and testimony that she is able to drive short trips, provide care to a pet cat, prepare simple food daily, wash dishes, straighten a room daily, shop in stores, pay bills, count change, handle a savings account, use a checkbook/money orders, search for work to perform at home, watch television and movies, make jewelry, socialize with others on the Internet daily, maintain two friends, and follow simple written instructions [R. at 233-45].

R. at 27-28; see R. at 48-73.

         2. VE Testimony

         The VE testified that a hypothetical individual with Plaintiff’s same age, education, and work experience with the RFC outlined below in Part III could not perform Plaintiff’s past relevant work but could perform the unskilled, light[2] jobs of merchandise marker, sales attendant, or cashier. R. at 75-76. A person “off task” more than 15% of the workday because of the need to take unscheduled breaks could not perform any work. R. at 77. A person absent from work three or more days per month could not perform any work. R. at 77-78. With the exception ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.