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. 14), and to make recommendations
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule
301.5(b)(ix). The Plaintiff, Keisha Holt, 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. 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 recommend that the Court grant the
Commissioner's motion and affirm the Commissioner's
judgment pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. §
Holt filed a claim for Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) on February 23, 2012. (Tr. 166-74). She
alleged a disability onset date of June 26, 2010.
Id. Her claim was denied initially and on
reconsideration. (Tr. 74-79). A hearing, at which Ms. Holt
was represented by counsel, was held on August 22, 2014,
before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (Tr. 30-49). Following the hearing, the
ALJ determined that Ms. Holt was not disabled within the
meaning of the Social Security Act during the relevant time
frame. (Tr. 13-29). The Appeals Council (“AC”)
denied Ms. Holt's request for review, (Tr. 8-12), so the
ALJ's decision constitutes the final, reviewable decision
of the Agency.
found that Ms. Holt suffered from the severe impairments of
“obesity; diabetes mellitus; and hypertension.”
(Tr. 18). Despite these impairments, the ALJ determined that
Ms. Holt retained the residual functional capacity
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except she
should not climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds, and should do
no work around dangerous machinery or unprotected heights.
(Tr. 20). After considering the testimony of a vocational
expert (“VE”), the ALJ determined that Ms. Holt
could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the
national economy and that, therefore, she was not disabled.
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. Holt's
favor at step one and determined that she has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date.
(Tr. 18); see 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i). At
step two, the ALJ then considered the severity of each of the
impairments that Ms. Holt claimed prevented her from working.
See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). Notably, the
ALJ found Ms. Holt's abscess nonsevere, and noted no
complaints of mental symptoms or diagnoses of mental
impairments in the record. (Tr. 19). However, after finding
at least one of Ms. Holt's impairments severe, (Tr. 18),
the ALJ continued with the sequential evaluation and
considered, in assessing Ms. Holt's RFC, the extent to
which her impairments limited her ability to work.
three, the ALJ determined that Ms. Holt's impairments did
not meet the specific requirements of, or medically equal the
criteria of, any listings. (Tr. 19-20). In particular, the
ALJ considered the specific requirements of Listing 4.02,
which pertains to chronic heart failure, Listing 4.04, which
pertains to ischemic heart disease, and Listing 9.00, which
pertains to endocrine disorders. See 20 C.F.R. Pt.
404, Subpt. P, App. 1, §§ 4.02, 4.04, 9.00. In
considering Listings 4.02 and 4.04, the ALJ determined that
“the record does not demonstrate that [Ms. Holt's]
impairment[s] [are] associated with chronic heart failure or
ischemic heart disease of sufficient severity to meet or
equal the requirements of [those] Listings[.]” (Tr.
19). Specifically, the ALJ noted that “there was no
evidence that [Ms. Holt] had any chronic cardiac
complications from her high blood pressure, ” and that
“[Ms. Holt] was advised on more conservative treatment
recommendations” for her hypertension. (Tr. 22). In
considering Listing 9.00, the ALJ determined that,
“there is no evidence that [Ms. Holt's] diabetes
mellitus resulted in complications in another body
system.” (Tr. 19). Although the ALJ noted that Ms.
Holt's diabetes resulted in chronic “skin
infections, ” the ALJ found that her infections were
“nonsevere, ” “infrequent, ” and
“easily treated with antibiotics.” Id. I
have carefully reviewed the record, and I agree that no
listings are met.
considering Ms. Holt's RFC, the ALJ summarized her
subjective complaints from her hearing testimony. (Tr.
20-21). The ALJ then engaged in a detailed review of her
medical records and objective testing. (Tr. 21-23).
Specifically, the ALJ noted “that despite having
chronically uncontrolled impairments, [Ms. Holt] did not have
any symptoms or complications that restricted her ability to
perform light work.” (Tr. 22). For example, although
Ms. Holt's diabetes was “chronically uncontrolled,
” the ALJ noted that her condition “improved
immediately with treatment, ” and required relatively
conservative treatment, such as glucose medication, diet, and
exercise. (Tr. 21-22). In addition, despite “ongoing
issues of noncompliance with her hypertension, ” the
ALJ noted that Ms. Holt's blood pressure was generally
controlled on medication, and cited her testimony
“den[ying] any symptoms associated with her
hypertension.” (Tr. 22). Moreover, the ALJ
cited the State consultants' determinations that Ms. Holt
“had the capacity to perform light work, ” and
noted that their “assessments for light work [were]
supported by [Ms. Holt's] normal physical functioning,
” her “fairly conservative course of treatment,
” and the absence of “any evidence of specialized
cardiac or endocrine treatment.” (Tr. 23). Furthermore,
the ALJ noted that “[Ms. Holt] obtained her high school
diploma the week before [her] hearing, ” which
“demonstrates her ability to persist at tasks and shows
that she was involved in some ongoing activity during the
period under consideration.” Id. Based on this
evidence, the ALJ found that Ms. Holt was able to perform
light work. (Tr. 20).
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. Holt'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
the ALJ determined that Ms. Holt had no past relevant work.
(Tr. 24). Accordingly, the ALJ proceeded to step five, where
he considered the impact of Ms. Holt'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. Holt's RFC would be capable of performing
the jobs of “laundry worker, ” “machine
tender, ” and “ticket taker.” Id.
Based on the VE's testimony, the ALJ concluded that Ms.
Holt 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