United States District Court, D. Maryland
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Stephanie A. Gallagher United States Magistrate Judge.
to Standing Order 2014-01, the above-referenced case has been
referred to me for review of the parties' dispositive
motions and to make recommendations pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule 301.5(b)(ix). The
Plaintiff, Shernia Mayo, who is appearing pro se,
did not file a motion for summary judgment and did not
respond to the Commissioner's Motion for Summary
Judgment. I have considered the Commissioner's
pending Motion for Summary Judgment. [ECF No. 13]. This Court
must uphold the Commissioner's decision if it is
supported by substantial evidence and if proper legal
standards were employed. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g),
1383(c)(3); Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th
Cir. 1996); Coffman v. Bowen, 829 F.2d 514, 517 (4th
Cir. 1987). I find that no hearing is necessary. See
Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). For the reasons set forth below,
I recommend that the Commissioner's motion be denied, the
decision of the Commissioner be reversed in part, and the
case be remanded pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C.
Mayo filed her application for Disability Insurance Benefits
on December 31, 2012, alleging a disability onset date of
July 14, 2012. (Tr. 169-72). Her application was denied
initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. 68-82, 85-101). A
hearing, at which Ms. Mayo was represented by counsel, was
held on September 24, 2015. (Tr. 29-67). After the hearing,
the Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) issued an
opinion denying benefits. (Tr. 8-28). The Appeals Council
(“AC”) denied review, making the ALJ's
decision the final, reviewable decision of the Agency. (Tr.
found that, during the relevant time frame, Ms. Mayo suffered
from the severe impairments of “fibromyalgia, major
depressive disorder, attention deficit disorder (ADD),
angina, mitral valve regurgitation, hypertension, chronic
pain syndrome, edema, cardiomyopathy, obesity, cervicalgia,
obstructive sleep apnea, and migraines.” (Tr. 13).
Despite these impairments, the ALJ determined that Ms. Mayo
retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a)
except no climbing of ladders or scaffolds. She can
occasionally climb ramps and stairs, stoop, kneel, crouch,
crawl, and balance. She must avoid exposure to hazards such
as unprotected heights or moving mechanical parts. She can be
exposed to only moderate noise. She must avoid exposure to
flashing lights or lights brighter than those found in a
normal office environment. She is limited to performing
simple, routine, repetitive tasks, but not those done at a
production rate pace as in an assembly line. She is limited
to making simple work related decisions with only occasional
changes in the routine work setting. She is limited to
occasional interaction with supervisors and co-workers. Time
off task during the workday would be accommodated by normal
breaks. She is limited to occasional exposure to atmospheric
conditions, extreme cold or heat, humidity, or weather.
(Tr. 17). After considering testimony from a vocational
expert (“VE”), the ALJ determined that there were
jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy
that Ms. Mayo could perform. (Tr. 22-23). Therefore, the ALJ
concluded that Ms. Mayo was not disabled. (Tr. 23).
carefully reviewed the ALJ's opinion and the entire
record. See Elam v. Barnhart, 386 F.Supp.2d 746, 753
(E.D. Tex. 2005) (mapping an analytical framework for
judicial review of a pro se action challenging an
adverse administrative decision, including: (1) examining
whether the Commissioner's decision generally comports
with regulations, (2) reviewing the ALJ's critical
findings for compliance with the law, and (3) determining
from the evidentiary record whether substantial evidence
supports the ALJ's findings). For the reasons described
below, while substantial evidence supports much of the
ALJ's decision, the ALJ failed to consider the evidence
that Ms. Mayo suffers from hidradenitis suppurativa, and to
consider what, if any, impact that condition has on her
ability to perform substantial gainful employment.
Accordingly, I recommend remand.
one, the ALJ found in Ms. Mayo's favor that she had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged
onset date. (Tr. 13). At step two, the ALJ found the severe
impairments listed above, and found that other alleged
impairments, specifically restless leg syndrome, asthma, and
myopia, were nonsevere. (Tr. 14).
three, the ALJ specifically considered physical Listings
1.04, 1.02, 3.10, and 4.04 and mental Listing 12.04, and
determined that none of the Listings had been met. (Tr.
14-17). The ALJ also noted that there is no specific listing
for fibromyalgia, migraines, or obesity. Id.
determining the RFC assessment, the ALJ summarized Ms.
Mayo's allegations about her inability to work. (Tr.
17-18). The ALJ further analyzed the medical evidence from
treatment records. (Tr. 18-20). The ALJ found that Ms.
Mayo's assertions were not entirely credible, citing
inconsistent medical records, activities of daily living,
statements made by Ms. Mayo regarding her capabilities, and
the fact that Ms. Mayo originally stopped working after being
terminated for taking an unauthorized vacation. (Tr. 20). The
ALJ next evaluated the medical opinions, and assigned
“great weight” to the opinion of physical
consultative examiner Dr. Young, “partial weight”
to the opinion of mental consultative examiner Dr. Philips,
“great weight” to the opinion of non-examining
State agency physician Dr. Hakkarinen, “little
weight” to the opinion of non-examining State agency
physician Dr. Biddison, and “great weight” to the
opinions of the non-examining State psychological
consultants. (Tr. 20-21). Ultimately, the ALJ reduced the RFC
assessment from that contained in the opinions of the
non-examining physicians, and limited Ms. Mayo to a
restricted range of sedentary work. Id.
at step four, the ALJ found that Ms. Mayo was unable to
perform her past relevant work as a medical technician or
certified nursing assistant. (Tr. 22). At step five, the ALJ
posed hypotheticals to the VE to determine whether a person
with each set of hypothetical criteria would be able to
perform work. (Tr. 62-65). Ultimately, the ALJ determined
that Ms. Mayo's RFC matched one of the hypotheticals he
had posed. (Tr. 17, 22-23). The VE cited several jobs in
response to that hypothetical, and the ALJ relied on that VE
testimony in his opinion. See id.; (Tr. 22-23).
function of this Court is not to review Ms. Mayo's claims
de novo or to reweigh the evidence of record.
See Smith v. Schweiker, 795 F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir.
1986) (citing 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) and Blalock v.
Richardson, 483 F.2d 773, 775 (4th Cir. 1972)). Rather,
this Court is to determine whether, upon review of the whole
record, the Commissioner's decision is supported by
substantial evidence and a proper application of the law.
See Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir.
1990); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). I am unable
to recommend that finding here.
is required to discuss each diagnosis that is supported by
objective medical evidence in the claimant's record.
See Boston v. Barnhart, 332 F.Supp.2d 879, 885 (D.
Md. 2004); see also Albert v. Astrue, Civil Action
No. CBD-10-2071, 2011 WL 3417109, at *2 (D. Md. July 29,
2011). Here, Ms. Mayo has been diagnosed with hidradenitis
suppurativa, and there is ongoing evidence of her presenting
with “boils” from that condition and receiving
appropriate treatment. See, e.g., (Tr. 447) (noting
boils under breast, on thigh, on buttocks); (Tr. 463) (noting
boil under breast); (Tr. 489) (mentioning recurrent
“boils” at least monthly unabated by Bactrim);
(Tr. 927) (stating diagnosis of hidradenitis suppurativa and
noting prescription of doxycycline for “RECURRENT
BOILS”). Ms. Mayo specifically testified at the hearing
that she has had “a lot of surgeries” to cut open
the boils, that she has them on her “whole genital
area” and on her buttocks, breasts, and under her arms,
and that she takes medication for the condition. (Tr. 59).
Despite the testimony and the evidence from the medical
records, the ALJ did not evaluate Ms. Mayo's hidradenitis
suppurativa at step two, and did not determine whether the
condition was severe or non-severe.
Court has held that an ALJ's failure to consider the
severity of a diagnosis at step two is harmless where the ALJ
corrects his or her error by “fully consider[ing] the
impact” of the neglected evidence when determining the
claimant's RFC. See Burroughs v. Comm'r, Soc.
Sec. Admin., Civil No. SAG-14-1081, 2015 WL 540719, at
*1 (D. Md. Feb. 9, 2015). Here, however, the ALJ did not
consider the impact of Ms. Mayo's persistent boils in his
RFC assessment or anywhere else in the opinion. The ALJ is
required to consider all of a claimant's impairments,
both severe and non-severe, in assessing the claimant's
RFC. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545(a)(2). Given the
location of Ms. Mayo's boils, it is unclear whether that
condition would impact her ability to sustain work in a
seated position throughout an eight-hour workday.