United States District Court, D. Maryland
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Stephanie A. Gallagher United States Magistrate Judge
to Standing Order 2014-01, the above-referenced case has been
referred to me for review of the Commissioner's
dispositive motion, (ECF No. 15), and to make recommendations
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule
301.5(b)(ix). The Plaintiff, Sonia Michele Cofield, who is
appearing pro se, did not file a motion for summary
judgment and did not respond to the Commissioner's Motion
for Summary Judgment. (ECF No. 15). I have considered the
Commissioner's Motion. 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 recommend
that the Court grant the Commissioner's motion and affirm
the Commissioner's judgment pursuant to sentence four of
42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
Cofield filed claims for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) on August 23, 2012. (Tr. 155-64). She
initially alleged a disability onset date of December 31,
2006. Id. Her claims were denied
initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. 92-99, 101-04). A
hearing, at which Ms. Cofield was represented by counsel, was
held on December 18, 2014, before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (Tr. 30-53). Following the hearing, the
ALJ determined that Ms. Cofield was not disabled within the
meaning of the Social Security Act during the relevant time
frame. (Tr. 15-29). The Appeals Council (“AC”)
denied Ms. Cofield's request for review, (Tr. 1-6), so
the ALJ's decision constitutes the final, reviewable
decision of the Agency.
found that Ms. Cofield suffered from the severe impairments
of “migraine headaches, arthritis, and diabetes.”
(Tr. 20). Despite these impairments, the ALJ determined that
Ms. Cofield retained the residual functional capacity
perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and
416.967(c) except she can do no more than occasional climbing
of ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes, and scaffolds; she can do
no more than occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling,
crouching, and crawling; and she is limited to simple and
(Tr. 21). After considering the testimony of a vocational
expert (“VE”), the ALJ determined that Ms.
Cofield could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in
the national economy and that, therefore, she was not
disabled. (Tr. 24-25).
carefully reviewed the ALJ's opinion and the entire
record. See Elam v. Barnhart, 386 F.Supp.2d 746, 753
(E.D. Tex. 2005) (mapping an analytical framework for
judicial review of a pro se action challenging an
adverse administrative decision, including: (1) examining
whether the Commissioner's decision generally comports
with regulations, (2) reviewing the ALJ's critical
findings for compliance with the law, and (3) determining
from the evidentiary record whether substantial evidence
supports the ALJ's findings). For the reasons described
below, substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision.
proceeded in accordance with applicable law at all five steps
of the sequential evaluation. The ALJ ruled in Ms.
Cofield's favor at step one and determined that she has
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged
onset date. (Tr. 20); see 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). At step two, the ALJ
then considered the severity of each of the impairments that
Ms. Cofield claimed prevented her from working. See
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii).
After finding at least one of Ms. Cofield's impairments
severe, (Tr. 20), the ALJ continued with the sequential
evaluation and considered, in assessing Ms. Cofield's
RFC, the extent to which her impairments limited her ability
three, the ALJ determined that Ms. Cofield's impairments
did not meet the specific requirements of, or medically equal
the criteria of, any listings. (Tr. 20-21). In particular,
the ALJ considered the specific requirements of Listing 1.02,
which pertains to arthritis. See 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404,
Subpt. P, App. 1, § 1.02. In considering Listing 1.02,
the ALJ determined that “while [Ms. Cofield] has some
knee arthritis, consultative examiner Dr. Reddy noted that
she displayed a normal gait, and did not appear to have
difficulty with weight bearing.” (Tr. 21) (citing (Tr.
328, 39). I have carefully reviewed the record, and I agree
that no listings are met.
considering Ms. Cofield's RFC, the ALJ summarized her
subjective complaints from her hearing testimony. (Tr. 21).
The ALJ then engaged in a detailed review of her medical
records and objective testing. (Tr. 21-24). Specifically, the
ALJ noted that Ms. Cofield's “joints showed normal
range of motion, ” her “gait and grip strength
were normal, ” and her upper and lower extremity
strength were normal. (Tr. 23). In addition, the ALJ noted
that Ms. Cofield demonstrated “full range of motion
with no crepitance or instability, ” showed no evidence
of “knee swelling, ” and experienced only
“slight diffuse tenderness of both knees.” (Tr.
22). Moreover, the ALJ noted that, despite some objective
evidence of “moderate to severe arthritis changes in
her bilateral knees, ” (Tr. 23), Ms. Cofield
“moved her extremities well, ” id., and
“could do work that would allow her to get up to
relieve her discomfort, ” (Tr. 22). Furthermore, the
ALJ noted that, upon examination, Ms. Cofield “was able
to sit, stand, walk, [and] move around, ” “[got]
onto the examination table without difficulty, and did not
require any ambulatory aids.” (Tr. 23). Based
on this evidence, the ALJ found that, “although [Ms.
Cofield] has some degenerative disc disease in
her…knees, she is capable of sitting, standing,
walking, and carrying objects, ” (Tr. 24), and is able
to perform medium work, (Tr. 21).
my review of the ALJ's decision is confined to whether
substantial evidence, in the record as it was reviewed by the
ALJ, supports the decision and whether correct legal
standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390, 404 (1971). Even if there is other evidence
that may support Ms. Cofield's position, I am not
permitted to reweigh the evidence or to substitute my own
judgment for that of the ALJ. Hays v. Sullivan, 907
F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). In considering the entire
record, I find the ALJ's RFC determination was supported
by substantial evidence.
the ALJ determined that, pursuant to her RFC assessment, Ms.
Cofield was unable to perform her past relevant work as an
accounting clerk. (Tr. 24). Accordingly, the ALJ proceeded to
step five, where she considered the impact of Ms.
Cofield's age and level of education on her ability to
adjust to new work. (Tr. 24-25). In doing so, the ALJ cited
the VE's testimony that a person with Ms. Cofield's
RFC would be capable of performing the jobs of
“dishwasher, ” “rural mail carrier, ”
and “bagger.” (Tr. 25). Based on the VE's
testimony, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Cofield was capable of
successfully adjusting to other work that exists in
significant numbers in the national economy. Id.
Accordingly, I find that the ALJ's determination was
supported by substantial evidence.
reasons set forth above, I respectfully recommend that the
Court GRANT Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, [ECF