United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge.
Sandra Lynn Smith 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. 14) 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.
17) is GRANTED, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment
(ECF No. 14) is DENIED, and the Commissioner's final
decision is AFFIRMED.
was born in 1971, has a high-school education, and previously
worked as a receptionist, unit secretary, pharmacy
technician, and cashier. R. at 110, 752. Plaintiff filed
applications for DIB and SSI on September 29, 2003 (with a
protective filing date of July 23, 2003), alleging disability
beginning on October 1, 2001, due to fibromyalgia, cervical
junctional disc disease, and chronic fatigue syndrome. R. at
97-100, 118, 680-81. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's
applications initially and again on reconsideration, so
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”). R. at 60-62, 69-77, 682-89. ALJ
G.B. Arthur held a hearing on April 13, 2006 (R. at 32-58),
and issued an unfavorable decision on February 22, 2007 (R.
at 13-30). On December 21, 2007, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review. R. at 7-10, 690-94.
Plaintiff sought judicial review in this Court. Smith v.
Astrue, Civil No. JKS 08-446 (D. Md. filed Feb. 20,
2008). Upon the Commissioner's consent, the Court
remanded the case on July 27, 2009. The Appeals Council
vacated the ALJ's decision and remanded the case on
October 8, 2009. R. at 756-65.
February 3, 2010, ALJ Arthur held a supplemental hearing at
which a vocational expert (“VE”) testified, but
Plaintiff did not appear because of health reasons. R. at
877-86. The ALJ held a second supplemental hearing where
Plaintiff testified on March 30, 2010. R. at 839-76. On April
26, 2010, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not
disabled from the alleged onset date of disability of October
1, 2001, through the date of the decision. R. at 729-55. On
October 11, 2010, Plaintiff filed exceptions to the decision
with the Appeals Council (R. at 723-26), which declined to
assume jurisdiction on July 12, 2012 (R. at 717-20). The
ALJ's decision thus became the final decision of the
Commissioner after remand. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.984(b)(2), 416.1484(b)(2).
12, 2015, the Appeals Council granted Plaintiff's request
for additional time to file a civil action in this Court. R.
at 713-15. On June 11, 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.
9, 2003, Harry Kerasidis, M.D., noted that Plaintiff was
under his care
for the evaluation and management of a sleep disorder
consisting of sleep onset insomnia, sleep maintenance
insomnia, possible Restless Legs Syndrome and complaints of
daytime hypersomnolence. Her condition has caused periods of
sleeplessness lasting days at a time, resulting in severe
fatigue and hypersomnolence. On a self-reported questionnaire
measuring daytime sleepiness (Epworth Sleepiness Scale) she
scores 17, normal <10, which puts her in the moderate
range of pathologic daytime sleepiness. She is currently
under evaluation for the potential diagnosis of narcolepsy
and a polysomnogram and Multiple Sleep Latency Test has been
ordered to further evaluate this diagnosis.
R. at 223. “This condition of disordered sleep could
potentially cause susceptibility to the effects of sedating
medications and may explain her recent involvement in a
single car motor vehicle accident.” R. at 223.
March 19, 2004, a state agency medical consultant, Philip
Moore, M.D., assessed Plaintiff's physical residual
functional capacity (“RFC”). R. at 250-58, 745.
Dr. Moore 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 251. Plaintiff occasionally could climb
ladders, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. R. at 252.
Plaintiff had no manipulative, visual, communicative, or
environmental limitations. R. at 253-54. Dr. Moore opined
that Plaintiff's alleged symptoms were partially
credible. R. at 255.
January 5, 2005, another state agency consultant, James
Johnston, M.D., again assessed Plaintiff's physical RFC.
R. at 550-58. Dr. Johnston 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 551. Plaintiff frequently could
balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps and
stairs (but only occasionally ladders, ropes, and scaffolds).
R. at 552. Plaintiff had no manipulative, visual,
communicative, or environmental limitations. R. at 553-54.
Dr. Johnston also opined that Plaintiff's symptoms were
partially credible. R. at 555.
October 15, 2004, Plaintiff was referred to Zahir Yousaf,
M.D., for persistent daytime fatigue. R. at 559. “Her
pain medications were increased earlier this year and [she]
was started on Duragesic Patch with significant improvement.
However, [Plaintiff] noted significant daytime sleepiness and
restless sleep with insomnia.” R. at 559.
Because of the excessive daytime fatigue, [Plaintiff] had a
polysomnogram in January 2004 followed by an MSLT and those
findings were consistent with severe central sleep apnea and
severe hypersomnia. Follow-up studies were later repeated
after the dose of the Duragesic was reduced to 75 mcg with
significant improvement in sleep apnea. However, [Plaintiff]
refused to continue with the smaller dose because of
recurrence of her persistent pain.
R. at 559.
January 30, 2010, Michael Kaiser, Ph.D., a psychologist,
completed a “Mental Source Statement of Ability to Do
Work-Related Activities (Mental).” R. at 797-98.
According to Dr. Kaiser, because Plaintiff “had
difficulty following two and three step instructions on the
WAIS” (R. at 790-94) and was “too emotionally
fragile to make complex work decisions, ” she had
moderate limitations in (1) understanding, remembering, and
carrying out complex instructions; and in (2) making
judgments on complex work-related decisions. R. at 797.
February 5, 2010, Gerald Lee, M.D., Ph.D., conducted a
consultative musculoskeletal examination of Plaintiff. R. at
780-89. Dr. Lee opined that “[Plaintiff] is able to
perform work-related activities such as walking, sitting,
hearing, handling objects, speaking, and traveling. She would
experience difficulties [with] prolonged walking, prolonged
standing, overhead reaching with left, and heavy lifting and
carrying.” R. at 781. Specifically, Dr. Lee opined
that, because of her left shoulder pain, Plaintiff could
reach overhead and in all other directions with her left hand
only occasionally. R. at 786.