United States District Court, D. Maryland
Robert G. Yoakum
Commissioner, Social Security Administration;
August 11, 2016, Plaintiff Robert G. Yoakum petitioned this
court to review the Social Security Administration's
final decision to deny his claim for Disability Insurance
Benefits. (ECF No. 1). I have considered the parties'
cross-motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 13, 14). 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
deny Plaintiff's motion, grant the Commissioner's
motion, and affirm the Commissioner's judgment pursuant
to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405. This letter
explains my rationale.
Yoakum filed a claim for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) on October 5, 2012, alleging a disability
onset date of October 30, 2008. (Tr. 139-42). His claim was
denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. 81-84, 86-87).
A hearing was held on November 6, 2014, before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 43-65).
Following the hearing, the ALJ determined that Mr. Yoakum was
not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act
during the relevant time frame. (Tr. 22-38). The Appeals
Council denied Mr. Yoakum's request for review, (Tr.
1-6), so the ALJ's decision constitutes the final,
reviewable decision of the Agency.
found that Mr. Yoakum did not suffer from any severe
impairment that significantly limited the ability to perform
work through the date last insured. (Tr. 27). Accordingly,
the ALJ concluded that Mr. Yoakum was not disabled.
Yoakum's sole argument on appeal is that the ALJ erred by
not determining that his hip disorder constitutes a severe
impairment. I disagree. At Step Two, the ALJ must determine
whether the claimant has a severe impairment. See 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). An impairment is considered
“severe” if it significantly limits the
claimant's ability to work. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1521(a). The claimant bears the burden of proving that
his impairment is severe. See Johnson v. Astrue,
2012 WL 203397, at *2 (D. Md. Jan. 23, 2012) (citing Pass
v. Chater, 65 F.3d 1200, 1203 (4th Cir. 1995)). Here,
the ALJ thoroughly considered Mr. Yoakum's hip disorder
at Step Two. (Tr. 28-29). In a detailed analysis, the ALJ
noted that Mr. Yoakum's hip disorder “was
adequately addressed with surgery and rehabilitation.”
(Tr. 29). Specifically, the ALJ noted that “on October
20, 2008, [Mr. Yoakum] underwent surgery for a total right
hip arthroplasty.” Id. The ALJ also noted that
Mr. Yoakum “attended physical therapy” following
his surgery, and cited “an imaging study confirm[ing]
that his hardware was in good position.” Id.
Additionally, the ALJ cited “treatment notes
indicat[ing] that, ‘[Mr. Yoakum] look[ed] good' and
[that] he was able to return to work” only nine weeks
after surgery. Id. Moreover, the ALJ noted Mr.
Yoakum's admission that he experienced only “a
little bit of weakness in his hip flexors and
abductors…, a little bit of a limp and a little bit of
discomfort, but was still able to work at full speed.”
Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Furthermore,
the ALJ noted that Mr. Yoakum “demonstrated better
strength and almost no Trendelenburg gait” on
examination, and received routine and conservative
post-operative treatment prior to his discharge. Id.
Ultimately, the ALJ concluded that “[Mr. Yoakum]
progressed well after surgery and returned to work” in
the absence of “any significant symptoms or
my review of the ALJ's decision is confined to whether
substantial evidence, in the record as it was reviewed by the
ALJ, supported the decision and whether correct legal
standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390, 404 (1971). Thus, even if there is other
evidence that may support Mr. Yoakum's position, I am not
permitted to reweigh the evidence or to substitute my own
judgment for that of the ALJ. See Hays v. Sullivan,
907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). Accordingly, the ALJ
fairly concluded that Mr. Yoakum's hip disorder had no
more than a de minimis effect on his ability to
work. Therefore, remand on this basis is unwarranted.
reasons set forth herein, Mr. Yoakum's Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 13) is DENIED and Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14) is GRANTED. The clerk is
directed to CLOSE this case.
the informal nature of this letter, it should be flagged as
an opinion and docketed as an order.
STEPHANIE A. GALLAGHER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
 Additionally, Mr. Yoakum notes that he
“underwent additional surgery in July 2011, to redo his
hip replacement from October 2008.” Pl. Mot. 7.
However, because his 2011 surgery occurred two years after
his date last insured of June 30, 2009, (Tr. 25), it is not
relevant to the ...