United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION
FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge.
Chyrassie Green 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. 15) 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.
16) is GRANTED, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment
(ECF No. 15) is DENIED, and the Commissioner's final
decision is AFFIRMED.
was born in 1972, has a college education, and previously
worked as a teacher, special-education teacher, database
administrator, and user support analyst. R. at 27-28, 233.
Plaintiff applied for DIB on September 24, 2013, alleging
disability beginning on June 8, 2012, due to degenerative
arthritis in the spine and chronic adjustment disorder. R. at
16, 204-07, 232. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's
application initially and again on reconsideration, so
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”). R. at 84-114, 117, 119-21. On
December 18, 2014, ALJ Francine L. Applewhite held a hearing
in Baltimore, Maryland, at which Plaintiff and a vocational
expert (“VE”) testified. R. at 34-83. On January
14, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not
disabled from the alleged onset date of disability of June 8,
2012, through the date of the decision. R. at 13-33.
Plaintiff sought review of this decision by the Appeals
Council, which denied Plaintiff's request for review on
September 11, 2015. R. at 1-4, 12. 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
November 13, 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.
Court reviews here and in Part VI below Plaintiff's
relevant medical evidence.
State Agency Medical Consultants
December 4, 2013, a state agency consultant, Maurice Prout,
Ph.D., using the psychiatric review technique
(“PRT”) under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520a,
evaluated Plaintiff's mental impairment under Listing
12.04 relating to affective disorders (R. at 88-89).
See 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1, §
12.04. Dr. Prout opined that, under paragraph B of the
applicable listing, Plaintiff's mental impairment caused
her to experience (1) mild 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 89.
Dr. Prout did not find evidence to establish the presence of
the criteria under paragraph C of the applicable listing. R.
at 89. Dr. Prout ultimately found that Plaintiff's mental
impairment was not severe. R. at 89.
January 7, 2014, a state agency medical consultant, A.R.
Totoonchie, M.D., assessed Plaintiff's physical residual
functional capacity (“RFC”). R. at 90-91. 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 90-91. Plaintiff occasionally could climb,
balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl, but she had no
manipulative, visual, communicative, or environmental
limitations. R. at 91.
August 14, 2014, another state agency consultant, A. Serpick,
M.D., again assessed Plaintiff's physical RFC. R. at
104-06. Dr. Serpick 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 105. Dr. Serpick also opined that
Plaintiff occasionally could climb, balance, stoop, kneel,
crouch, and crawl, but she had no manipulative, visual,
communicative, or environmental limitations. R. at 105-06.
August 21, 2014, another state agency consultant, Robin
McCallister, Ph.D., used the PRT to evaluate Plaintiff's
mental impairments under Listings 12.04, 12.06, and 12.09
relating to affective, anxiety-related, and substance
addiction disorders (R. at 101-03). See 20 C.F.R.
pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1, §§ 12.04, 12.06, 12.09.
Dr. McCallister opined that, under paragraph B of the
applicable listings, Plaintiff's mental impairments
caused her 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) no repeated
episodes of decompensation of extended duration. R. at 102.
Dr. McCallister did not find evidence to establish the
presence of the criteria under paragraph C of the applicable
listings. R. at 102. Dr. McCallister thus assessed
Plaintiff's mental RFC (R. at 106-08) and opined that she
was moderately limited in her ability to (1) 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;
and to (5) respond appropriately to changes in the work
setting. Plaintiff otherwise was not significantly limited.
R. at 106-08. Dr. McCallister opined that Plaintiff could (1)
understand and remember simple and detailed instructions; (2)
typically carry out simple and some detailed instructions in
two-hour increments during an eight-hour workday across a
forty-hour workweek; (3) typically relate adequately without
evidence of the potential for significant problems with
co-workers and supervisors; and (4) adapt to changes and
pressures in a routine work environment. R. at 108.
reviewed Plaintiff's testimony in her decision:
[Plaintiff] alleged that physical and mental symptoms limit
her ability to engage in work activities. Specifically, she
averred that her degenerative arthritis in the spine, and
chronic adjustment disorder rendered her disabled [R. at
232]. [Plaintiff] appeared at the hearing and offered
testimony that her medications make her fall asleep.
[Plaintiff] stated that 2-3 times a week she will isolate
herself at home. [Plaintiff] indicated that she will not do
any activities at those times. [Plaintiff] stated that she
has daily pain in her back, radiating down from her lower
lumbar section into her buttocks.
[Plaintiff] stated that her right hand caused her to drop
things at times. [Plaintiff] stated that she could sit for
15-20 minutes before having to shift position. [Plaintiff]
indicated that she has difficulties with incontinence tied to
her back. [Plaintiff] stated that she must use the restroom
about an hour after drinking. [Plaintiff] testified that she
uses pads she changes 2-3 times a day. [Plaintiff] stated
that she will dig and scratch at herself when things are out
of her control. [Plaintiff] submitted a function report
indicating that she could walk for 10 minutes before having
to stop and rest [R. at 254.] As a consequence, [Plaintiff]
believes she is incapable of all work activity.
R. at 21-22; see R. at 39-77.
testified that a hypothetical person with Plaintiff's
same age, education, and work experience who had the RFC
outlined in Part III below could not perform Plaintiff's
past work but could perform the sedentary, semi-skilled jobs
of data entry operator, civil service clerk, order control
clerk, or actuarial clerk. R. at 28-29, 78-80. The VE's
testimony was consistent with the Dictionary of
Occupational Titles. R. ...