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Jarnagin v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

April 9, 2018

JONATHAN JARNAGIN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S ALTERNATIVE MOTION FOR REMAND

          Thomas M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Jonathan Jarnagin 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”) denying his applications for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and alternative motion for remand (ECF No. 15) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 18).[1] Plaintiff contends that the administrative record does not contain substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision that he is not disabled. No. hearing is necessary. L.R. 105.6. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's alternative motion for remand (ECF No. 15) is GRANTED.

         I

         Background

         Born in 1986, Plaintiff has an eighth-grade education and no past relevant work. R. at 27, 45. Plaintiff protectively filed applications for DIB and for SSI on June 5, 2013, alleging disability beginning on January 1, 2010, due to depression, ADHD, and substance abuse. R. at 20, 193-204, 238. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's applications initially and again on reconsideration, so Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). R. at 66-109, 114-15. On May 16, 2016, ALJ Francine L. Applewhite held a hearing at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. R. at 35-64. On July 20, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled from the alleged onset date of disability of January 1, 2010, through the date of the decision. R. at 17-34. Plaintiff sought review of this decision by the Appeals Council, which denied Plaintiff's request for review on June 9, 2017. R. at 1-6, 192. The ALJ's decision thus became the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481; see also Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07, 120 S.Ct. 2080, 2083 (2000).

         On August 8, 2017, 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 Evidence

          A. Plaintiff's Testimony

          The ALJ reviewed Plaintiff's testimony in her decision:

In a Function Report dated October 20, 2013, [Plaintiff] indicated that he was unable to work because he was depressed, could not “get himself together, ” think clearly, or stay on task. He further indicated limitations in his ability to remember, complete tasks, concentrate, understand, get along with others, handle stress, and handle changes in routine. He denied problems following instructions and getting along with authority figures. At the time, he was living in a shelter setting and indicated that his daily activities included intensive outpatient therapy, self-help groups, and NA, CA, and AA meetings. He was able to manage his personal care and chores assigned by shelter staff, travel outside the shelter independently on foot or via public transportation, shop for food on a daily basis, and count change. He talked with family on the phone once or twice per week and enjoyed watching movies . . . .
At the hearing, [Plaintiff] testified that he has been abstinent from drugs and alcohol since his last rehabilitation program in April/May 2013, and is maintained on a regimen of Suboxone. Her has been living in a drug-free housing setting since October 2014, and volunteers twice per week at an animal shelter. He has not worked for pay since 2011. In terms of his limitations, [Plaintiff] testified that he has difficulty focusing on one task and concentrating. He has good days that are characterized by feeling motivated, and bad days that are characterized by wanting to isolate and “block everyone out.” Bad days occur around 50% of the time. He further testified that he will stay in his room and sleep on a bad day. Lastly, [Plaintiff] testified that he has limited reading skills.

R. at 24-25; see R. at 43-58, 273-85.

         B. ...


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