United States District Court, D. Maryland
January 13, 2016, Plaintiff Tito Dereck Krouse petitioned
this Court to review the Social Security Administration's
final decision to deny his claims for Disability Insurance
Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. (ECF No. 1). I
have considered the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment, and Mr. Krouse's reply. (ECF Nos. 18, 19, 20).
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 Mr. Krouse'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.
Krouse filed his claims for benefits in June 2011, alleging a
disability onset date of August 1, 2009. (Tr. 367-77). His
claims were denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr.
172-80). Hearings were held on November 5, 2013 and May 8,
2014, before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).
(Tr. 42-111). Following the hearings, the ALJ determined that
Mr. Krouse was not disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act during the relevant time frame. (Tr. 27-41). The
Appeals Council denied Mr. Krouse's request for review,
(Tr. 6-13), so the ALJ's decision constitutes the final,
reviewable decision of the Agency.
found that Mr. Krouse suffered from the severe impairments of
“[o]besity, mild asthma, depression, and
anxiety.” (Tr. 29). Despite these impairments, the ALJ
determined that Mr. Krouse retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to:
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b) except that postural activities are all frequent,
with no climbing of ropes, ladders, or scaffolds. The
claimant must avoid concentrated exposure to temperature
extremes, odors, dusts, gases, fumes, and poor ventilation.
The claimant could perform simple, unskilled work that is not
at a production pace, meaning paid by the piece or on an
assembly line. The claimant's work should involve only
occasional contact with the general public and coworkers, and
such work should be essentially isolated, meaning only
(Tr. 33). After considering the testimony of a vocational
expert (“VE”), the ALJ determined that Mr. Krouse
could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the
national economy and that, therefore, he was not disabled.
sole argument on appeal is that the ALJ provided an
inadequate analysis of the listings pertaining to asthma. Pl.
Mot. 9-14. On that issue, the ALJ found as follows:
The undersigned has considered the listings contained at
section 3.00 et seq. (respiratory system disorders).
As discussed in detail below, treatment records show that the
claimant has required only one hospital emergency room visit
for asthma exacerbation despite the claimant's
inconsistency in using inhalers. The claimant's mild
asthma is generally stable on medications. Further, the
claimant admitted at the hearing that he continues to smoke.
There is no mention in the record of any findings equivalent
in severity to any listed impairment. The claimant's
obesity has also been considered.
(Tr. 31) (citation omitted). Plaintiff contends that the ALJ
failed to apply specific record evidence to specific listing
criteria, in violation of the dictates in Fox v.
Colvin, 632 F. App'x 750 (4th Cir. 2015).
Because I find the ALJ did not identify any particular
listing to be applied, I affirm the ALJ's conclusion.
existing Fourth Circuit law, an ALJ only has to identify a
listing and compare the evidence to the listing requirements
where there is ample evidence to suggest that the listing is
met. See Huntington v. Apfel, 101 F.Supp.2d 384,
390 (D. Md. 2000) (citing Cook v. Heckler, 783 F.2d
1168, 1172 (4th Cir. 1986)); Ketcher v. Apfel, 68
F.Supp.2d 629, 645 (D. Md. 1999) (noting that the
“duty of identification of relevant listed impairments
and comparison of symptoms to Listing criteria is only
triggered if there is ample evidence in the record to support
a determination that the claimant's impairment meets or
equals one of the listed impairments”). While
Fox, as an unpublished decision, suggested a new
standard for the analysis that must be present in an
ALJ's opinion after a listing has been identified, it did
not alter existing law with respect to the criteria for
identifying a listing in the first instance. In Mr.
Krouse's case, while the ALJ referred to a potentially
applicable category of listings that she reviewed (those
pertaining to respiratory system disorders), she did not
identify any specific listings within that general category.
(Tr. 31). A mere reference to a general category of listings
does not indicate that the ALJ found ample evidence to
identify and analyze any or all of those listings. The ALJ
did identify several specific listings relating to Mr.
Krouse's mental impairments, but properly
applied the special technique to evaluate those impairments.
(Tr. 31-33). Accordingly, Fox provides no basis for
reasons set forth herein, Mr. Krouse's Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 18) is DENIED and Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 19) 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