United States District Court, D. Maryland
December 28, 2016, Plaintiff Angela Thomas petitioned this
Court to review the Social Security Administration's
final decision to deny her claims for Disability Insurance
Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. [ECF No. 1]. I
have considered the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment. [ECF Nos. 19, 20]. 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 grant the
Commissioner's motion and deny Ms. Thomas's motion.
This letter explains my rationale.
Thomas filed claims for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) and Supplemental Security Income
(“SSI”) on June 6, 2012. (Tr. 149-57, 158-64).
She alleged a disability onset date of April 1, 2010. (Tr.
39, 149, 158). Her claims were denied initially and on
reconsideration. (Tr. 100-04, 107-10). An Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) held a hearing on April 6, 2015.
(Tr. 34-54). Following the hearing, the ALJ determined that
Ms. Thomas was not disabled within the meaning of the Social
Security Act during the relevant time frame. (Tr. 11-27). The
Appeals Council denied Ms. Thomas's request for review,
(Tr. 1-4), so the ALJ's decision constitutes the final,
reviewable decision of the Agency.
found that Ms. Thomas suffered from the severe impairments of
cognitive disorder and depression. (Tr. 16). Despite these
impairments, the ALJ determined that Ms. Thomas retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to:
perform work at all exertional levels but she is limited to
routine repetitive tasks and must avoid direct contact with
the general public and fast pace production work.
(Tr. 18). After considering the testimony of a vocational
expert (“VE”), the ALJ determined that Ms. Thomas
could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the
national economy, and therefore was not disabled. (Tr. 22).
appeal, Ms. Thomas argues that the ALJ failed to apply the
proper legal standard in determining whether her impairments
met the criteria listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P,
Appendix 1, § 12.05(C). Her argument lacks merit and is
Ms. Thomas argues that the ALJ ignored judicial precedent by
failing to find that her impairments per se
satisfied the requirements of Listing 12.05(C) at step three
of the sequential evaluation. Pl. Mem. 6-8. To satisfy
Listing 12.05, a claimant must meet the criteria of the
introductory paragraph and one of four subsections,
identified as subsections A, B, C, or D. See 20
C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 § 12.05 (2015); see
also Jackson v. Astrue, 467 F. App'x 214, 217 (4th
Cir. 2012). The introductory paragraph of Listing 12.05
requires a showing of “significantly subaverage general
intellectual functioning with deficits in adaptive
functioning initially manifested during the
developmental period; i.e., the evidence
demonstrates or supports onset of the impairment before age
22.” 20 C.F.R., Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 § 12.05
(2015) (emphasis added). Deficits in adaptive functioning may
include “limitations in areas such as communication,
self-care, home living, social/interpersonal skills, use of
community resources, self-direction, functional academic
skills, work, leisure, health, and safety.”
Jackson, 467 F. App'x at 218. Relevant to the
instant case, subsection C of Listing 12.05 requires a
showing of two distinct prongs: (1) “[a] valid verbal,
performance, or full scale IQ of 60 through 70;” and
(2) “a physical or other mental impairment imposing an
additional and significant work-related limitation of
function.” 20 C.F.R., Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 §
12.05(C) (2015). Ms. Thomas argues that subsection C is
per se satisfied by (1) her full scale IQ of 65 and
verbal IQ of 70, and (2) the work-related limitations that
the ALJ determined resulted from her severe impairments of
depression and cognitive disorder. Pl. Mem. 7-10.
Thomas's argument rests on her contention that a claimant
is required only to prove the two prongs of subsection C to
satisfy the criteria of Listing 12.05. See Pl.
Mem. 6-7. Ms. Thomas's contention, however, is at odds
with regulatory guidance and judicial precedent. See
20 C.F.R., Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 § 12.00 (2015)
(“If your impairment satisfies the diagnostic
description in the introductory paragraph and any
one of the four sets of criteria, we will find that your
impairment meets the listing.”) (emphasis added);
see also Hancock v. Astrue, 667 F.3d 470 (4th Cir.
2012) (“Listing 12.05 requires a showing of
‘deficits in adaptive functioning initially manifested
during the developmental period; i.e., the evidence
demonstrates or supports onset of the impairment before age
22[.]'”); Watson v. Astrue, Civil Action
No. CBD-11-2491, 2013 WL 136425 (D. Md. Jan. 9, 2013)
(“The structure of Listing 12.05 for mental retardation
is unique in that it contains an introductory paragraph with
the diagnostic criteria for mental retardation, which
must be satisfied before applying paragraphs A through
D.”) (emphasis added). Here, the ALJ properly evaluated
Ms. Thomas's impairments according to the criteria set
forth in Listing 12.05(C). Most notably, the ALJ found:
“[E]ven though the claimant has a low IQ consistent
with the requirements of [Listing] 12.05C, her adaptive
functioning is not consistent with ‘intellectual
disability' as required by the listing.” (Tr. 18).
The ALJ explained that Ms. Thomas “has worked at SGA
levels in the past as a daycare assistant, she can take care
of her personal needs independently and prepare food, and she
has cared for her four children on her own.”
Id. In his analysis, the ALJ considered Ms.
Thomas's ability to engage in self-care, home living, and
work, as required by judicial precedent. Id.;
see Jackson, 467 F. App'x at 218. Accordingly, I
find that the ALJ adequately addressed Listing 12.05(C) in
his conclusion that Ms. Thomas does not meet the threshold
requirement that she suffers from deficits in adaptive
reasons set forth herein, Ms. Thomas's Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 19) is DENIED and Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 20) 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 ...