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Washington v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

March 31, 2018

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

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S ALTERNATIVE MOTION FOR REMAND

          Thomas M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Gail Lavore 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 under Title II of the Social Security Act. Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and alternative motion for remand (ECF No. 13) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16).[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, Plaintiff's alternative motion for remand (ECF No. 13) is GRANTED.

         I

         Background

         On October 31, 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.

         II

         Summary of ALJ's Decision

         On May 7, 2015, the ALJ found that Plaintiff (1) had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of disability of April 26, 2011; 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 unable to perform her past relevant work; but (5) could perform other work in the national economy, such as a counter clerk, inspector, or mail clerk. R. at 24-32. The ALJ thus found that she was not disabled from April 26, 2011, through the date of the decision. R. at 32.

         In so finding, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's adjustment disorder was not a severe impairment because it did not cause more than minimal limitations in her ability to perform basic mental work activities. R. at 25. The ALJ considered the four broad functional areas, or “paragraph B criteria, ” of Plaintiff's activities of daily living; social functioning; concentration, persistence, or pace; and episodes of decompensation. The ALJ found that Plaintiff had mild limitations in concentration, persistence, or pace, but had no limitations in activities of daily living and social functioning. R. at 25-26. The ALJ also found that Plaintiff had experienced no episodes of decompensation of extended duration. R. at 26. The ALJ thus found that Plaintiff's mental impairment was not severe. R. at 26. The ALJ then stated that the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) assessment reflected the degree of limitation that the ALJ had found in the “paragraph B” mental function analysis. R. at 26. The ALJ found, however, that Plaintiff had the RFC

to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b), except that [she] can lift and carry up to 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds frequently; can stand or walk for six hours during an eight-hour workday; can sit for six hours during an eight-hour workday; and can occasionally use her non-dominant left upper extremity for grasping and handling (but has no additional lifting or carry restrictions with this extremity).

R. at 27.

         III

         Disability Determinations and Burden of Proof

         The Social Security Act defines a disability as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505, 416.905. A claimant has a disability when the claimant is “not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists . . ...


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