United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
M. DIGIROLAMO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Linda Smith 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 her 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. 10) 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.
15) is GRANTED, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment
(ECF No. 10) is DENIED, and the Commissioner's final
decision is AFFIRMED.
was born in 1958, has a college education, and previously
worked as a trainer, administrative assistant, instructional
designer, and personnel clerk. R. at 31-32, 233, 235, 237,
252. Plaintiff applied for DIB on January 19, 2012 (with a
protective filing date of January 9, 2012), alleging
disability beginning on October 28, 2011, due to
fibromyalgia, insomnia, and lupus. R. at 19, 191-97, 235. The
Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application initially and
again on reconsideration, so Plaintiff requested a hearing
before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). R. at
109-31, 134-43. On July 24, 2014, ALJ Jennifer M. Long held a
hearing in Washington, D.C., at which Plaintiff and a
vocational expert (“VE”) testified. R. at 41-68.
On September 3, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding
Plaintiff not disabled from the alleged onset date of
disability of October 28, 2011, through the date of the
decision. R. at 14-40. Plaintiff sought review of this
decision by the Appeals Council, which denied Plaintiff's
request for review on January 14, 2015. R. at 5-9, 13,
333-37. 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).
April 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.
Summary of Evidence
State Agency Medical Consultants
26, 2012, a state agency medical consultant, A.R. Totoonchie,
M.D., assessed Plaintiff's physical residual functional
capacity (“RFC”). R. at 114-15. Dr. Totoonchie
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 115. Plaintiff had no postural, manipulative, visual,
communicative, or environmental limitations. R. at 115.
December 3, 2012, another state agency consultant, Karen
Sarpolis, M.D., again assessed Plaintiff's physical RFC.
R. at 127-29. Dr. Sarpolis opined that Plaintiff could (1)
lift and/or carry ten pounds occasionally and ten pounds
frequently; (2) stand and/or walk for a total of about four
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 128. Dr. Sarpolis opined that Plaintiff
occasionally could climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and
crawl. R. at 128. Plaintiff had no manipulative, visual,
communicative, or environmental limitations. R. at 128-29.
December 8, 2012, Dr. Tanveer A. Padder conducted a
consultative examination of Plaintiff. R. at 31, 539-43. Dr.
Padder noted Plaintiff's
reported history of depression, anxiety, no prior psychiatric
admission who has not been working since October 2011 and
after she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and other medical
issues. She claimed that she tried to get back to work but
she was not able to and she attributes her inability to work
on her medical, as well as psychiatric symptoms, mostly on
medical. She claims to be very tired all the time and not
able to tolerate a lot of sensory stimuli along with chronic
pain, anxiety. She has psychosomatic symptoms including
headache and insomnia. As per mini mental, there were no
gross cognitive deficits.
R. at 541. “Her attention/concentration was fair
although she could not do serial 7's but was able to do
serial 3's and able to spell the word world
backwards.” R. at 541. “Her mini-mental score was
27 out of 30.” R. at 541. Dr. Padder's diagnoses
included depression not otherwise specified, “[r]ule
out anxiety/mood disorder secondary to medical
problems.” R. at 542. Dr. Padder also rated
Plaintiff's GAF at 55. R. at 542.
December 19, 2012, a state agency consultant, Dawn Jackson,
Psy.D., using the psychiatric review technique under 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520a, evaluated Plaintiff's mental
impairments under Listings 12.04 and 12.06 relating to
affective and anxiety-related disorders (R. at 125-27).
See 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1,
§§ 12.04, 12.06. Among the opinions reviewed by Dr.
Jackson was Dr. Padder's opinion from the December 2012
consultative examination and GAF rating of 55. R. at 126. Dr.
Jackson opined that, under paragraph B of the applicable
listings, Plaintiff's mental impairments caused her to
experience (1) no 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 126. Dr. Jackson did not find
evidence to establish the presence of the criteria under
paragraph C of the applicable listings. R. at 126. Dr.
Jackson ultimately found that “[t]here is no evidence
of significant limitation in any [mental-health]-related
functional area. [Plaintiff's mental-health] impairment
is not severe.” R. at 126.
reviewed Plaintiff's testimony in her decision:
[Plaintiff] testified that she stopped working full-time in
December 2006, because she married and moved to England.
After that, she only worked part-time on a military base in
England. [Plaintiff] and her husband returned to the United
States in late 2009. Thereafter, she worked part-time in the
summer of 2011 and subsequently obtained a full-time job.
However, she indicated that she was absent from this job ...