United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
JOHN W. DOBSON, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S
ALTERNATIVE MOTION FOR REMAND
M. DiGirolamo, United States Magistrate Judge.
John W. Dobson 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 and alternative
motion for remand (ECF No. 13), Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16), and Plaintiff's Response
to 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 he is not disabled. No
hearing is necessary. L.R. 105.6. For the reasons that
follow, Plaintiff's alternative motion for remand (ECF
No. 13) is GRANTED.
was born in 1960, has a high-school education, and previously
worked as a shipping and receiving worker, produce stock
clerk, and restaurant manager. R. at 24-25, 158, 170.
Plaintiff protectively filed an application for DIB on
February 3, 2012, alleging disability beginning on January
26, 2012, due to vertigo, deafness in the left ear, and
“giddiness.” R. at 131-37, 155, 169. The
Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application initially and
again on reconsideration, so Plaintiff requested a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). R. at
56-87, 91. On March 6, 2014, ALJ Michael A. Krasnow held a
hearing at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert
(“VE”) testified. R. at 27-55. On April 25, 2014,
the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled from
the alleged onset date of disability of January 26, 2012,
through the date of the decision. R. at 14-26. Plaintiff
sought review of this decision by the Appeals Council, which
denied Plaintiff's request for review on August 5, 2015.
R. at 1-6. 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).
September 17, 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.
State Agency Medical Consultants
April 20, 2012, a state agency medical consultant, W.
Hakkarinen, M.D., assessed Plaintiff's physical residual
functional capacity (“RFC”). R. at 73-76. Dr.
Hakkarinen opined that Plaintiff could (1) lift and/or carry
fifty pounds occasionally and twenty-five 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 74. Because of Plaintiff's subjective
episodes of vertigo, he occasionally could balance, but he
could stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps and stairs
without limit. R. at 74. He could not, however, climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. R. at 74. Plaintiff had no
manipulative or visual limitations, but his hearing was
limited in his left ear, and he was to avoid concentrated
exposure to noise, vibration, and hazards, such as machinery
and heights, because of his unilateral hearing loss. R. at
October 2, 2012, another state agency consultant, Aroon
Suansilppongse, M.D., using the psychiatric review technique
under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520a, evaluated Plaintiff's
mental impairments under Listing 12.04 relating to affective
disorders (R. at 61). See 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt.
P, app. 1, § 12.04. Dr. Suansilppongse opined that,
under paragraph B of the applicable listing, 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) one or two repeated episodes of decompensation
of extended duration. R. at 61. Dr. Suansilppongse did not
find evidence to establish the presence of the criteria under
paragraph C of the applicable listing. R. at 61. Dr.
Suansilppongse thus assessed Plaintiff's mental RFC (R.
at 64-67) 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) 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; (4) interact appropriately
with the general public; (5) accept instructions and respond
appropriately to criticism from supervisors; (6) get along
with co-workers or peers without distracting them or
exhibiting behavioral extremes; and to (7) set realistic
goals or make plans independently of others. Plaintiff
otherwise was not significantly limited. R. at 65-66.
December 18, 2012, another state agency consultant, J.
Biddison, M.D., again assessed Plaintiff's physical RFC.
R. at 62-64. Dr. Biddison opined that Plaintiff could (1)
lift and/or carry fifty pounds occasionally and twenty-five
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 62-63. Plaintiff occasionally
could balance, and he frequently could stoop, kneel, crouch,
crawl, and climb ramps and stairs (but never ladders, ropes,
or scaffolds). R. at 63. Plaintiff had no manipulative or
visual limitations, but his hearing was limited in his left
ear, and he was to avoid concentrated exposure to noise,
vibration, and hazards, such as machinery and heights,
because of his unilateral hearing loss and vertigo. R. at
reviewed Plaintiff's testimony in his decision:
[Plaintiff] alleges disability due to anxiety, deafness of
the left ear, vertigo and feelings of dizziness. In his
function report he stated that he was extremely nauseous most
days and that he was unable to predict the days he was
nauseated. He reported that his abilities to read, write and
concentrate are limited due to the nausea.
In a function report dated March 31, 2012, [Plaintiff] stated
that he feels nauseous from the moment he wakes until he goes
to bed. [R. at 193.] He reported he becomes dizzy when he
showers, and that he spends most of his time in bed. [R. at
194.] [Plaintiff] reported that he stated that he handled
change in routine poorly since suffering from vertigo. [R. at
199.] Plaintiff stated that he is often jumpy and nervous due
to vertigo. He reported that he wears glasses and has done so
since 1985. [R. at 199.] [Plaintiff] stated that his
condition has changed his life for the worse and that he is