United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
Weiner Parson Special Assistant United States Attorney Social
Security Administration Ofc. Of General Counsel.
before this Court, by the parties' consent, are Motions
for Summary Judgment. (ECF 3, 6, 13, 14). The Court must
uphold the Social Security Administration
(“SSA”)'s decision if it is supported by
substantial evidence and if the Agency employed proper legal
standards. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g),
1383(c)(3) (2016); Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589
(4th Cir. 1996). The substantial evidence rule
“consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence but
may be somewhat less than a preponderance.”
Chater, 76 F.3d at 589. This Court shall not
“re-weigh conflicting evidence, make credibility
determinations, or substitute [its] judgment” for that
of the SSA. Id. Upon review of the pleadings and the
record, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. L.R.
105.6. For the reasons set forth below, both Motions are
DENIED and the SSA's judgment is remanded for further
filed a Title II Application for Disability Insurance
Benefits on December 2, 2013, alleging the onset of
disability on July 30, 2010. (Tr. 13). Plaintiff's
application was denied initially (March 2, 2011), and upon
reconsideration (June 26, 2014), by the SSA. Id.
Plaintiff filed a written request for a hearing on July 31,
2014 that was granted and conducted on March 23, 2016 by
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Tierney Carlos.
Id. The ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff
was not disabled on May 31, 2016. (Tr. 10). The Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on April 6,
2017. (Tr. 1). Accordingly, the ALJ's decision became
final and reviewable decision of the SSA. Id.
filed her appeal to this Court on May 30, 2017. (ECF No. 1).
Plaintiff contends that the ALJ's failure to evaluate all
medical conditions at step two resulted in a denial of
benefits not supported by substantial evidence. (ECF No. 13-2
argues that the ALJ did not address her diagnoses of complex
regional pain syndrome (“CRPS”) and seizure dis
in his evaluation of her impairments at step two, which
subsequently affected the residual functioning capacity
(“RFC”) determination and the ultimate denial of
benefits. Id. Defendant argues that any such error,
if it exists, was harmless. (ECF 14-1 at 5-11). The ALJ's
failure to discuss the seizure disorder at step two was not
well settled in the Fourth Circuit that an ALJ's decision
should include a “narrative discussion describing how
the evidence supports each conclusion citing specific medical
facts . . . and nonmedical evidence.” Mascio v.
Colvin, 780 F.3d 632, 636 (4th Cir. 2015). The ALJ must
then build “an accurate and logical bridge from the
evidence to his conclusion.” Petry v. Comm'r,
Soc. Sec. Admin., No. 16-464, 2017 WL 680379, at *2 (D.
Md. Feb. 21, 2017). In Mascio, the Fourth Circuit
reversed and remanded when it was unable to determine how the
ALJ arrived at the conclusions about claimant's ability
to perform relevant functions and was uncertain as to the
ALJ's intent. See Mascio, 780 F.3d at 637. The
Fourth Circuit applied this principle to an ALJ's
analysis of mental impairments in Patterson v.
Commissioner, 846 F.3d 656, 662 (4th Cir. 2017), finding
that “because [it] cannot review the ALJ's
mental-impairment evaluation, [it] cannot say that he
properly assessed Patterson's RFC.” This error in
Patterson was not harmless because it affected many
of the ALJ's subsequent conclusions beyond step two.
See Id. The ALJ is required to consider all of a
claimant's impairments when assessing the claimant's
RFC. See 20 C.F.R. §404.1545(a)(2). This Court
has found that a failure to evaluate a claimant's medical
diagnosis results in an insufficient record for review.
See Krause v. Comm'r, No. 16-2530, 2017 WL
371902, at *2 (D. Md. Jan. 25, 2017) (“[T]he ALJ
entirely failed to consider Mr. Krause's mental
diagnosis, and remand is required as a result.”).
despite evidence in the record of a seizure
disorder, the ALJ did not consider it in his
analysis. Claimant testified before the ALJ regarding her
seizure disorder. (Tr. 60-62). The medical records also
reflect this diagnosis. (B8F at 1-3). Yet the ALJ identifies
only physical impairments at step two of his analysis. (Tr.
15-16, 21). The ALJ summarizes his findings by noting
limitations from “the combined effects of
[claimant's] physical impairments, ” but says
nothing as to her mental impairments. (Tr. 21). Because the
ALJ failed to explain his reasoning for omitting the seizure
disorder, and that failure then affected the ALJ's RFC
determination, the Court remands the decision for further
explanation. In remanding, the Court expresses no opinion as
to whether the ALJ's ultimate conclusion denying benefits
is correct or incorrect.
reasons set forth above, Ms. Friend's Motion for Summary
Judgment, (ECF No. 13), is DENIED and Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 14), is DENIED. Pursuant to
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the SSA's
judgment is REVERSED IN PART due to inadequate analysis. The
case is REMANDED for further proceedings in accordance with
this opinion. The clerk is directed to CLOSE this case.
the informal nature of this letter, it should be flagged as