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Washington v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

September 25, 2017

SUSAN WASHINGTON, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.[1]

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          THOMAS M. DiGIROLAMO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Susan Washington seeks judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or the “Commissioner”) denying her application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act. Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 13) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14).[2] Plaintiff contends that the administrative record does not contain substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision that she is not disabled. No hearing is necessary. L.R. 105.6. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14) is GRANTED, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 13) is DENIED, and the Commissioner's final decision is AFFIRMED.

         I

         Background

         Plaintiff was born in 1959, has a college education, and previously worked as a special-education teacher. R. at 22, 38. Plaintiff protectively filed an application for DIB on May 26, 2012, alleging disability beginning on November 30, 2009 (later amended to February 1, 2012), due to plantar fasciitis, and Morton's neuroma of the left foot. R. at 15, 138-44, 174, 196. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application initially and again on reconsideration, so Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). R. at 70-92, 97-101. On August 27, 2014, ALJ Thomas Mercer Ray held a hearing at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. R. at 30-57. On January 16, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled from the amended alleged onset date of disability of February 1, 2012, through the date of the decision. R. at 10-29. Plaintiff sought review of this decision by the Appeals Council, which denied Plaintiff's request for review on May 6, 2016. R. at 1-9, 236. The ALJ's decision thus became the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981; see also Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07, 120 S.Ct. 2080, 2083 (2000).

         On June 29, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking review of the Commissioner's decision. After the parties consented, this case was transferred to a United States Magistrate Judge for final disposition and entry of judgment. The case then was reassigned to the undersigned. The parties have briefed the issues, and the matter is now fully submitted.

         II

         Summary of ALJ's Decision

         On January 16, 2015, the ALJ found that Plaintiff (1) had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the amended alleged onset date of disability of February 1, 2012; and (2) had an impairment or a combination of impairments considered to be “severe” on the basis of the requirements in the Code of Federal Regulations; but (3) did not have an impairment or a combination of impairments meeting or equaling one of the impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1; and (4) was able to perform her past relevant work as a special-education teacher; and (5) could perform other work in the national economy, such as an office helper, cashier, or router. R. at 18-23. The ALJ thus found that she was not disabled from February 1, 2012, through the date of the decision. R. at 23.

         In so finding, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)

to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b), including the ability to occasionally lift and/or carry 20 pounds; frequently lift and/or carry 10 pounds; stand and/or walk for 6 hours in [an] 8-hour workday; sit for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday; push and/or pull as much as lift and/or carry, including the use of hand and/or foot controls as much as she can lift and/or carry, however may only occasionally use foot controls; no limitation on climbing ramps and stairs; can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; occasionally balance; unlimited as to stooping, kneeling, crouching, and crawling.

R. at 19.

         III

         Disability Determinations ...


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