United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
CHRISTINE D. LAROCHE, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S
ALTERNATIVE MOTION FOR REMAND
M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge.
Christine D. Laroche seeks judicial review under 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) of a final decision of the
Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or
the “Commissioner”) that her disability ended on
February 1, 2014. Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion
for Summary Judgment and alternative motion for remand (ECF
No. 10), Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No.
14), and the parties' supplemental memoranda (ECF Nos.
16, 17). Plaintiff contends that the administrative
record does not contain substantial evidence to support the
Commissioner's decision that she is no longer disabled.
No. hearing is necessary. L.R. 105.6. For the reasons that
follow, Plaintiff's alternative motion for remand (ECF
No. 10) is GRANTED.
12, 2004, the Commissioner found Plaintiff to be disabled as
of March 1, 2004. R. at 68. On February 21, 2014, the
Commissioner found that Plaintiff was no longer disabled as
of February 1, 2014 (R. at 70-72), a finding which a state
agency disability officer upheld on reconsideration (R. at
76-92). Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) (R. at 93-97),
which was held on February 12, 2015, at which Plaintiff and a
vocational expert (“VE”) testified (R. at 25-60).
On March 26, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding
Plaintiff's disability had ended on February 1, 2014. R.
at 7-24. On July 27, 2016, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review. R. at 1-6. The Appeals
Council's decision thus became the final decision of the
Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481; see
also Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07, 120 S.Ct.
2080, 2083 (2000).
September 21, 2016, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court
seeking review of the Commissioner's decision. Upon the
parties' consent, this case was transferred to a United
States Magistrate Judge for final disposition and entry of
judgment. The case subsequently was reassigned to the
undersigned. The parties have briefed the issues, and the
matter is now fully submitted.
Summary of Evidence
The Court reviews here and in Part VI below the evidence
relevant to the Court's disposition.
State Agency Medical Consultants
January 8, 2014, a state agency consultant, A. Serpick, M.D.,
assessed Plaintiff's physical residual functional
capacity (“RFC”). R. at 373-80. Dr. Serpick
opined that Plaintiff had no exertional, postural,
manipulative, visual, communicative, or environmental
limitations. R. at 374-77.
February 4, 2014, another state agency consultant, C. Moore,
Psy.D., using the psychiatric review technique under 20
C.F.R. § 416.920a, evaluated Plaintiff's mental
impairments under Listings 12.04 and 12.06 relating to
affective disorders and anxiety-related disorders (R. at
385-98). See 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1
§§ 12.04, 12.06. Dr. Moore opined that, under
paragraph B of the applicable listings, Plaintiff's
mental impairments caused her to experience (1) mild
restriction in activities of daily living; (2) moderate
difficulties in maintaining social functioning; (3) moderate
difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or
pace; and (4) one or two repeated episodes of decompensation
of extended duration. R. at 395. Dr. Moore did not find
evidence to establish the presence of the criteria under
paragraph C of the applicable listings. R. at 396. Dr. Moore
thus assessed Plaintiff's mental RFC (R. at 381-83) and
opined that she was moderately limited in her ability to (1)
understand, remember, and carry out detailed instructions;
(2) maintain attention and concentration for extended
periods; (3) perform activities within a schedule, maintain
regular attendance, and be punctual within customary
tolerances; (4) work in coordination with or proximity to
others without being distracted by them; (5) complete a
normal workday and workweek without interruptions from
psychologically based symptoms and to perform at a consistent
pace without an unreasonable number and length of rest
periods; (6) accept instructions and to respond appropriately
to criticism from supervisors; (7) get along with co-workers
or peers without distracting them or exhibiting behavioral
extremes; and to (8) respond appropriately to changes in the
work setting. Plaintiff otherwise was not significantly
limited. R. at 381-82.
decision, the ALJ noted that
[Plaintiff] takes 18 or 19 medications per day that cause,
among other things, nausea and diarrhea. She makes numerous
trips of 15 minutes or more to the bathroom daily. She has
seizures once every three months and migraines one to three
times a week. She has pain in her shoulder and suffers from
bouts of prolonged bronchitis due to chronic obstructive
pulmonary disease. She has had a bipolar disorder since 1994
and attended regular counseling until three years ago. She
uses sleeping pills at night and still sleeps five hours a
day. She has swelling in her lower extremities and elevates
her legs 20 minutes. She can sit one hour due to discomfort
in her legs and walk 10 minutes. She can lift 10 pounds. She
has worsening memory and concentration and does not deal well
with stress or work with ...