United States District Court, D. Maryland
Amanda Gray, o/b/o G.D.
Commissioner, Social Security Administration
CHAMBERS OF 101 WEST LOMBARD STREET STEPHANIE A.
GALLAGHER BALTIMORE, MARYLAND 21201 UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE
JUDGE (410) 962-7780
April 10, 2015, Travis Deavers petitioned this Court to
review the Social Security Administration's final
decision to deny his claims for Supplemental Security Income
and Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). (ECF
No. 1). Mr. Deavers is now deceased, and the named Plaintiff
in this matter is Amanda Gray, o/b/o G.D. I have reviewed the
parties' motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 12, 30).
I find that no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R.
105.6 (D. Md. 2016). 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 Plaintiff'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.
Deavers filed his claims for benefits on May 18, 2011,
alleging a disability onset date of November 1, 2010. (Tr.
231-44). His claims were denied initially and on
reconsideration. (Tr. 144-51, 157-60). Hearings were held on
June 26, 2013 and October 29, 2013, before an Administrative
Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 63-103). Following the
hearings, the ALJ determined that Mr. Deavers was not
disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act during
the relevant time frame. (Tr. 39-62). The Appeals Council
(“AC”) denied Mr. Deavers's request for
review, (Tr. 1-7), so the ALJ's decision constitutes the
final, reviewable decision of the Agency.
found that Mr. Deavers suffered from the severe impairments
of post open reduction and internal fixation acetabular
fracture, mood disorder, not otherwise specified, opiate
dependence, and alcohol dependence. (Tr. 44). Despite these
impairments, the ALJ determined that Mr. Deavers retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to:
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b) except: occasional stairs and ramps, no ladders,
ropes or scaffolds; frequent stooping; and occasional
kneeling, crouching and crawling. He can perform: unskilled
work at an SVP 1 or 2 in a static work environment where
changes in tasks are infrequent and explained when they do
occur; no more than simple, work-related decisions; and no
work where pace of productivity is dictated by an external
source over which he has no control, such as assembly lines
and conveyor belts. He can stay on task at least 90 percent
of the workday, exclusive of normally prescribed breaks.
(Tr. 47). After considering the testimony of a vocational
expert (“VE”), the ALJ determined that Mr.
Deavers could perform both past relevant work as a
housekeeper and other work existing in significant numbers in
the national economy and that, therefore, he was not
disabled. (Tr. 55-57).
raises two primary arguments on appeal. First, she argues
that the ALJ lacked substantial evidence for her conclusion
that Mr. Deavers suffered from “moderate”
limitations in the area of “concentration, persistence,
and pace.” Pl. Mot. at 6. Second, she contends that the
ALJ assigned insufficient weight to the opinion of Mr.
Deavers's treating physician, Dr. Russell. Pl. Mot. at
9-10. Each of Plaintiff's arguments lacks merit and is
Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ lacked substantial evidence to
conclude that Mr. Deavers suffered from
“moderate” limitations in “concentration,
persistence, and pace.” Pl. Mot. at 6. Plaintiff
premises her argument on the fact that one of the two
non-examining State agency physicians, Dr. Dale, found Mr.
Deavers to have “marked” difficulties in
maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace. (Tr. 108).
In fact, however, Dr. Dale's opinion is internally
inconsistent. While one portion of the opinion does contain
an unexplained finding of “marked” difficulties,
the remainder of the opinion, which provides additional
detail about the conclusions reached, finds nothing more
severe than “moderate” limitation in any ability
to concentrate, persist, or keep pace. (Tr. 109-111). In
fact, Dr. Dale's narrative conclusion states, “This
claimant appears to have the capacity to maintain
sustainability in concentration, persistence and pace at the
moderate limitation level.” (Tr. 110). Thus, the ALJ
correctly cited Dr. Dale's opinion for the proposition
that Mr. Deavers has only “moderate
limitations.” 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.
in light of the evidence of record, I find no error in the
ALJ's conclusion that Mr. Deavers could “stay on
task at least 90 percent of the workday, exclusive of
normally prescribed breaks.” (Tr. 47). That finding
acknowledges the likelihood of some interruptions in
concentration during work time, but finds that Mr. Deavers
would have been able to sustain concentration for sufficient
periods to permit competitive employment. The finding is
amply supported by various pieces of medical evidence cited
by the ALJ, including Dr. Russell's opinion and the
opinion from Dr. Dale. See (Tr. 109-11, 465). The
fact that none of those opinions assigned a specific
percentage to the amount of time Mr. Deavers can stay on task
is not dispositive, since the ALJ's RFC assessment does
not amount to a precise calculation of time on task, but a
general finding that the time off-task would not exceed an
amount that would preclude gainful employment.
Plaintiff contends that the ALJ did not assign sufficient
weight to the opinion of Mr. Deavers's treating
physician, Dr. Russell, who treated him for opiate
dependence. Plaintiff does not specifically address which
portion of Dr. Russell's opinion was assigned too little
weight, Pl. Mot. 9-10, and it is clear that Dr. Russell
believed Mr. Deavers to be capable of sustaining employment,
with some limitations. (Tr. 464-67). In fact, much of Dr.
Russell's opinion is consistent with the RFC assessment
found by the ALJ. Compare (Tr. 47) with
(Tr. 464-67). The primary discrepancy between the RFC
assessment and Dr. Russell's opinion is the ability to
stand and walk during a workday, which, if Dr. Russell's
opinion had been credited, may have limited Mr. Deavers to
sedentary work instead of light work. However, the ALJ
throughout her opinion cited to evidence supporting a greater
physical capacity, specifically Mr. Deavers's activities
of daily living, including caring for small children, his
consultative neurological examination which was essentially
normal, his successful treatment via surgery, and the
treatment notes from Dr. Russell, which do not substantiate
difficulties with standing and walking. (Tr. 48-54). In light
of the substantial evidence cited by the ALJ, remand on the
basis of assignment of weight to Dr. Russell's opinion is
reasons set forth herein, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 12) is DENIED and Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 30) 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 ...