United States District Court, D. Maryland
Larry J. Oakes, Jr.
Commissioner, Social Security Administration;
December 20, 2016, Plaintiff Larry J. Oakes, Jr. petitioned
this Court to review the Social Security Administration's
final decision to deny his claims for Disability Insurance
Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. (ECF No. 1). I
have considered the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment. (ECF Nos. 14, 16). 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
Oakes filed claims for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) in December, 2012, alleging a disability
onset date of February 1, 2012. (Tr. 170-79). His claims were
denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. 100-09,
116-19). A hearing was held on June 4, 2015, before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 31-65).
Following the hearing, the ALJ determined that Mr. Oakes was
not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act
during the relevant time frame. (Tr. 7-30). The Appeals
Council (“AC”) denied Mr. Oakes's request for
review, (Tr. 1-6), so the ALJ's decision constitutes the
final, reviewable decision of the Agency.
found that Mr. Oakes suffered from the severe impairments of
“discogenic/degenerative back disorder, peripheral
neuropathy, and carpal tunnel syndrome.” (Tr. 13).
Despite these impairments, the ALJ determined that Mr. Oakes
retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a) except lifting/carrying 20 pounds occasionally and
ten pounds frequently, occasional postural activities such as
climbing ramps, stairs, ladders, ropes, scaffolds, as well as
occasional stooping, kneeling, crouching and crawling, and no
more than frequent fingering or reaching, including overhead,
with the left upper extremity.
(Tr. 15). After considering the testimony of a vocational
expert (“VE”), the ALJ determined that Mr. Oakes
could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the
national economy and that, therefore, he was not disabled.
Oakes's sole argument on appeal is that that the AC
erroneously declined to remand the case for new and material
evidence. Pl. Mot. 6-8. Specifically, he contends that the AC
failed to properly consider evidence that “would have
resulted in a finding that [he] met the criteria of Listing
1.04A.” Id. at 6. I disagree. The AC is
required to consider additional evidence submitted by a
claimant only where it is (1) new, (2) material, and (3)
relates to the period on or before the date of the ALJ
hearing decision. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.970(b),
416.1470(b). Evidence is new where “it is not
duplicative or cumulative[, ]” and is material where
there is “a reasonable possibility that the new
evidence would have changed the outcome.” Meyer v.
Astrue, 662 F.3d 700, 705 (4th Cir. 2011) (quoting
Wilkins v. Sec'y, Dep't of
Health & Human Servs., 953 F.2d 93, 96 (4th Cir.
1991) (en banc)). Moreover, “[m]aterial evidence is
evidence that relates to the claimant's condition for the
time period for which benefits were denied, and not to
after-acquired conditions or post-decision deterioration of a
pre-existing condition.” Eidoen v. Apfel, 221
F.3d 1342 (8th Cir. 2000). “[T]he regulatory scheme
does not require the [AC] to do anything more
than…‘consider new and material
evidence…in deciding whether to grant
review.'” Meyer v. Astrue, 662 F.3d 700,
706 (4th Cir. 2011). The AC is not required to take any
specific action in response to new and material evidence, and
is not required to provide a detailed explanation of its
evaluation where it denies review. Id. In this case,
Mr. Oakes submitted additional medical records to support his
assertion that he met or equaled Listing 1.04A. (Tr.
379-413). However, Mr. Oakes concedes that much of this
evidence was dated after the date of the ALJ's decision.
Pl. Mot. 6-8; see, e.g., (Tr. 379-83,
399-405, 408-13). Regardless, the AC decision specified that
it had considered the new records Mr. Oakes submitted at the
appellate level, but “concluded that the additional
evidence does not provide a basis for changing the
[ALJ's] decision.” (Tr. 2, 5). Accordingly, the AC
fulfilled its legal obligation to consider the evidence in
deciding whether to grant review. Finally, Mr. Oakes contends
that the new records establish some of the Listing criteria
(namely, compromise of the nerve root and pain), but does not
address other criteria, such as motor loss. Pl. Mot. 7-8.
Consequently, there is no reasonable probability of a
different outcome if the ALJ had received the records
predating his opinion. Therefore, remand is unwarranted.
reasons set forth herein, Mr. Oakes's Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 14) is DENIED and Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16) 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 ...