Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Hasan v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 25, 2017

TULANI HASAN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner. Social Security Administration, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          A. David Copperthite United States Magistrate Judge.

         On December 8, 2016, Tulani Hasan ("Plaintiff") petitioned this court to review the Social Security Administration's ("SSA") final decision to deny her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB") and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI"). See ECF No. 1 (the "Complaint"). After consideration of the Complaint, the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 14 and 25), and the supplement and response thereto (ECF Nos. 20 and 24), the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See Loc.R. 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). In addition, for me reasons that follow, Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14) is DENIED, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 25) is GRANTED, and the decision of the SSA is AFFIRMED.

         Procedural History

         Alleging disability beginning on January 1. 2009, Plaintiff filed a Title II application for a period of disability and DIB and a Title XVI application for SSI on January 6 and 9. 2012, respectively. Her claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration on January 1 and December 6, 2012, respectively. Subsequently, on February 14, 2013, Plaintiff filed a written request for a hearing and. on December 12, 2013, a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALT). On February 25, 2014, the ALJ rendered a decision ruling that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act (the "Act"). Plaintiff appealed the decision to the Appeals Council.

         On May 7. 2015, the Appeals Council remanded the case back to the ALJ in order to obtain additional evidence concerning Plaintiffs psychiatric impairments, including evidence from a medical examiner regarding the nature and severity of such impairments, further consider Plaintiffs maximum "residual functional capacity" ("RFC"), and obtain evidence from a vocational expert to clarify the effect of the assessed limitations on Plaintiffs occupational base. Plaintiff appeared at a second hearing before the ALJ on September 21, 2015, during which she amended the onset date of her disability to December 8, 2011, and the ALJ rendered a decision ruling that Plaintiff "ha[d] not been disabled within the meaning of the [Act] at any time from the alleged onset date through the date of this decision." ECF No. 11 at 49. Thereafter, Plaintiff filed an appeal of the ALJ's disability determination and, on October 21, 2016, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request for review. Thus, the decision rendered by the ALJ became the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481 (2017); see also Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103. 106-07(2000).

         On December 8, 2016. Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this Court seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's denial of Plaintiff s disability application.[1] On April 24, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. On June 15. 2017, Plaintiff filed a supplemental memorandum, which Defendant responded to on July 17. 2017. On August 8, 2017, Defendant filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. This matter is now fully briefed and the Court has reviewed Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgement, including the supplement and response thereto, and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.

         Standard of Review

         "This Court is authorized to review the Commissioner's denial of benefits under 42 U.S.C.A. § 405(g)." Johnson v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650, 653 (4th Cir. 2005) (per curiam) (citation omitted). The Court, however, does not conduct a de novo review of the evidence. Instead, the Court's review of an SSA decision is deferential, as "[t]he findings of the Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive." 42 U.S'.C. § 405(g); see Smith v. Chater, 99 F.3d 635, 638 (4th Cir. 1996) ("The duty to resolve conflicts in the evidence rests with the ALJ, not with a reviewing court."); Smith v. Schweiker, 795 F.2d 343. 345 (4th Cir. 1986) ("We do not conduct a de novo review of the evidence, and the Secretary's finding of non-disability is to be upheld, even if the court disagrees, so long as it is supported by substantial evidence." (citations omitted)). Therefore, the issue before the reviewing court "is not whether [Plaintiff] is disabled, but whether the ALJ's finding that [Plaintiff] is not disabled is supported by substantial evidence and was reached based upon a correct application of the relevant law." Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996) ("Under the [Act], [a reviewing court] must uphold the factual findings of the [ALJ] if they are supported by substantial evidence and were reached through application of the correct legal standard." (citations omitted)).

         Substantial evidence means "such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion." Richardson v. Perales. 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971) (citation omitted); see Hancock v. Astrue, 667 F.3d 470, 472 (4th Cir. 2012). It "consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be less than a preponderance." Smith, 99 F.3d at 638. "In reviewing for substantial evidence, we do not undertake to reweigh conflicting evidence, make credibility determinations, or substitute our judgment for that of the ALJ. Where conflicting evidence allows reasonable minds to differ as to whether a claimant is disabled, the responsibility for that decision falls on the ALJ." Johnson, 434 F.3d at 653 (internal citations omitted). Therefore, in conducting the "substantial evidence" inquiry, the court shall determine whether the ALJ has considered all relevant evidence and sufficiently explained the weight accorded to that evidence. Sterling Smokeless Coal Co. v. Akers, 131 F.3d 438, 439-40 (4th Cir. 1997).

         Disability Determinations and Burden of Proof

         In order to be eligible for DIB, a claimant must establish that she is under disability within the meaning of the Act. The term "disability, " for purposes of the Act, is defined as the "inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505, 416.905. A claimant shall be determined to be under disability where "[her] physical or mental impairment or impairments are of such a severity that [she] is not only unable to do [her] previous work but cannot, considering [her] age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy[.]" 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B).

         In determining whether a claimant has a disability within the meaning of the Act. the ALJ, acting on behalf of the Commissioner, follows the five-step evaluation process outlined in the Code of Federal Regulations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; see Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. 20, 24 (2003). The evaluation process is sequential, meaning that "[i]f at any step a finding of disability or nondisability can be made, the [Commissioner] will not review the claim further." Thomas, 540 U.S. at 24; see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4).

         At step one. the ALJ considers the claimant's work activity to determine if the claimant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity." 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). If the claimant is engaged in "substantial gainful activity, " then the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 404.1520(b), 416.920(a)(4)(i), 416.920(b).

         At step two, the ALJ considers whether the claimant has a "severe medically determinable physical or mental impairment [or combination of impairments] that meets the duration requirement[.]" 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). If the claimant does not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments meeting the durational requirement of twelve months, then the claimant is not ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.