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.

Ross v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

August 16, 2016

TONY ROSS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANT’S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Thomas M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Tony Ross 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 his application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II 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. 15).[1] Plaintiff contends that the administrative record does not contain substantial evidence to support the Commissioner’s decision that he is not disabled. No hearing is necessary. L.R. 105.6. For the reasons that follow, Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 15) is GRANTED, Plaintiff’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 12) is DENIED, and the Commissioner’s final decision is AFFIRMED.

         I

         Background

         Plaintiff was born in 1958, has a high-school education, and previously worked as a letter carrier, cleaner/maintenance worker, sales associate, and delivery worker. R. at 26, 215. Plaintiff protectively filed applications for DIB and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) on November 3, 2011, alleging disability beginning on December 31, 2010, due to back problems and allergies. R. at 14, 178-87, 214. The Commissioner initially denied Plaintiff’s application for SSI on November 21, 2011, because of excess income for eligibility for SSI. Hartt Decl. ¶ (b) & Ex. 3, ECF No. 15-2. Plaintiff did not appeal the Commissioner’s denial of his application for SSI. Hartt Decl. ¶ (c), ECF No. 15-2.

         The Commissioner denied Plaintiff’s application for DIB initially and again on reconsideration, so Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). R. at 81-114. On July 7, 2014, ALJ Michael A. Krasnow held a hearing in Washington, D.C., at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. R. at 43-80. At the hearing, Plaintiff amended his alleged onset date of disability to January 30, 2012. R. at 45, 210. On August 26, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled from the amended alleged onset date of disability of January 30, 2012, through the date last insured of June 30, 2012. R. at 11-32. Plaintiff sought review of this decision by the Appeals Council, which denied Plaintiff’s request for review on February 23, 2015. R. at 1-5, 10. 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 April 22, 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 February 14, 2012, a state agency consultant, D. Peterson, 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 12.09 relating to affective disorders and substance addiction disorders (R. at 85-86). See 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1, §§ 12.04, 12.09. Dr. Peterson opined that, under paragraph B of the applicable listings, Plaintiff’s mental impairments caused him to experience (1) mild restriction in activities of daily living; (2) mild difficulties in maintaining social functioning; (3) mild difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace; and (4) no repeated episodes of decompensation of extended duration. R. at 86. Dr. Peterson did not find evidence to establish the presence of the criteria under paragraph C of the applicable listings. R. at 86. Dr. Peterson opined that Plaintiff’s impairments were not severe. R. at 86.

         On February 22, 2012, another state agency consultant, W. Hakkarinen, M.D., assessed Plaintiff’s physical residual functional capacity (“RFC”). R. at 87-88. 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 87-88. Plaintiff occasionally could climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. R. at 88. Plaintiff had no manipulative, visual, communicative, or environmental limitations. R. at 88.

         On August 1, 2012, another state agency consultant, E. Nakhuda, M.D., again assessed Plaintiff’s physical RFC. R. at 99-100. Dr. Nakhuda 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 99. Plaintiff occasionally could climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. R. at 100. Plaintiff had no manipulative, visual, communicative, or environmental limitations. R. at 100.

         On August 28, 2012, another state agency consultant, G. Dale, Jr., Ed.D., again used the PRT to evaluate Plaintiff’s mental impairments under Listings 12.02, 12.04, 12.06, and 12.09 relating to organic mental disorders, affective disorders, anxiety-related disorders, and substance addiction disorders (R. at 97-98). See 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1, §§ 12.02, 12.04, 12.06, 12.09. Dr. Dale opined that, under paragraph B of the applicable listings, Plaintiff’s mental impairments caused him to experience (1) mild restriction in activities of daily living; (2) moderate 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 98. Dr. Dale did not find evidence to establish the presence of the criteria under paragraph C of the applicable listings. R. at 98. Dr. Dale thus assessed Plaintiff’s mental RFC (R. at 101-03) and opined that he was moderately limited in his ability to (1) understand, remember, and carry out detailed instructions; (2) maintain attention and concentration for extended periods; (3) perform activities within a schedule, maintain regular attendance, and be punctual within customary tolerances; (4) 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; (5) interact appropriately with the general public; (6) get along with co-workers or peers without distracting them or exhibiting behavioral extremes; and to (7) respond appropriately to changes in the work setting. R. at 101-02. Plaintiff otherwise was not significantly limited. R. at 101-02.

         B. Hearing Testimony

         1. Plaintiff’s Testimony

         The ALJ reviewed Plaintiff’s testimony in his decision:

[Plaintiff] testified that he had to stop his long-term job as a letter carrier because he kept getting sick. However, he continued to work for the postal service thereafter in a different position. [Plaintiff] explained that he had allergic reactions wherein his throat closed, and he had swelling and bowel incontinence. He sometimes passed out due to shock from the reactions. [Plaintiff] said his doctors did not know what caused the allergic reactions, but that he had them two or three times per month. [Plaintiff] also testified regarding his back pain. He reported that he underwent back surgery many years before, in the early to mid-1990’s. He said that he also took pain medication for his back, which only helped some. He reported no side effects from his medication. [Plaintiff] also had PTSD related to trauma as a child and his roommate being killed while he was in military service. He admitted that he was advised to attend PTSD group therapy, but had not even taken psychiatric medications since 2012. With regard to his functional ability, [Plaintiff] stated that he could hardly lift any weight because of prior surgery on his hand, had numbness radiating down his leg from his back, and could only walk about one block. He also testified that he decreased his smoking earlier this year but had not quit smoking completely.

R. at 20-21; see R. at 48-53, 54-71.

         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 machine tender, table worker, or grading and sorting worker. R. at 72-74. The VE’s testimony was consistent with the Dictionary of Occupational Titles.[3] R. at 74. A person with a reduction in ...


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.