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Roberson v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

March 20, 2017

COREY ROBERSON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.[1]

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S ALTERNATIVE MOTION FOR REMAND

          Thomas M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Corey Roberson 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. 15) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16).[2] 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. 15) is GRANTED.

         I

         Background

         Plaintiff was born in 1972, has a GED, and previously worked as a sewer service worker. R. at 25-27. Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on November 8, 2011, alleging disability beginning on March 18, 2011, due to a heart attack and irregular heartbeat. R. at 10, 198-99, 237. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application initially and again on reconsideration, so Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). R. at 81-102, 105-12, 115-16. On April 11, 2014, ALJ Larry K. Banks held a hearing in Washington, D.C., at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. R. at 22-55. At the hearing, Plaintiff amended his alleged onset date of disability to September 1, 2012. R. at 28, 223-25. On June 9, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled from the amended alleged onset date of disability of September 1, 2012, through the date of the decision. R. at 7-21. Plaintiff sought review of this decision by the Appeals Council, which denied Plaintiff's request for review on August 7, 2015. R. at 1-6, 296. 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).

         On October 8, 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.

         II Summary of Evidence

         A. State Agency Medical Consultants

         On March 7, 2012, a state agency consultant, L. Robbins, M.D., assessed Plaintiff's physical residual functional capacity (“RFC”). R. at 85-86. Dr. Robbins 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 85-86. Plaintiff occasionally could climb, balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl, but he had no manipulative, visual, communicative, or environmental limitations. R. at 86.

         On June 12, 2012, another state agency consultant, S.K. Najar, M.D., expressed the same opinion about Plaintiff's exertional, postural, manipulative, visual, and communicative limitations. R. at 94-96. Dr. Najar opined, however, that Plaintiff was to avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold. R. at 96.

         B. Hearing Testimony

         1.Plaintiff's Testimony

         The ALJ reviewed Plaintiff's testimony in his decision:

[Plaintiff] alleges disabling limitations due to a heart attack and irregular heart beat [R. at 236-43.] He testified that he stopped working due to a heart attack. He reported having his first heart attack in March 2011 [R. at 25-52.] He reported no prior history of heart disease (Id.). He also had exploratory gallbladder surgery (Id.). He returned to work for approximately one month in 2012, but he had a second heart attack in June 2012, followed by a cardiac catheterization. He reported a third heart attack in August 2013, followed by additional cardiac catheterizations (Id.). [Plaintiff] reports continued chest pain (Id.). He takes nitroglycerine (Id.).

R. at 13.

         2.VE ...


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