United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
Nathaniel Mervis Special Assistant United States Attorney
Social Security Administration.
before this Court, by the parties' consent, are Motions
for Summary Judgment. (ECF 2, 6, 15, 23). 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.”
Id. 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 consideration.
November 6, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Title II application for
a period of disability and disability insurance benefits,
alleging that her disability began on April 19, 2009. (Tr.
107). Plaintiff's application was denied initially
(December 11, 2013), and upon reconsideration (April 25,
2014), by the SSA. (Tr. 78, 85). Plaintiff appeared at a
hearing on February 9, 2016 presided by Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) F. H. Ayer. (Tr. 32). On April 20,
2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding that Plaintiff was
not disabled. (Tr. 14). The SSA Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review on July 28, 2016. (Tr. 1).
Accordingly, the ALJ's opinion became the final and
reviewable decision of the Social Security Administration.
Plaintiff petitioned this Court on September 29, 2016, (ECF
No. 1), raising one argument, namely that the ALJ erred in
assessing her Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”). (ECF No. 15 at 3).
contends that there is not substantial evidence supporting
the ALJ's RFC determination. Specifically, Plaintiff
avers that the ALJ failed to sufficiently explain his
function-by-function assessment findings that claimant was
limited to performing simple, one to four step routine,
repetitive tasks and to a work environment where there would
only be occasional contact with coworkers and supervisors, no
contact with the general public, and where there was no fast
pace or production quotas. (ECF No. 15 at 6, 9). Defendant
argues that the ALJ properly conducted a function-by-function
analysis and basing his final evaluation on “the
evidence of Ms. Eichelberger's problems with her memory
and concentration, her anxiety and adjustment diss, and her
guarded personality type.” (ECF No. 23 at 6). However,
defendant does not mention how the ALJ supported his
conclusion regarding the claimant's limitation to one to
four step routine, repetitive tasks.
needs to develop a record with sufficient analysis for the
reviewing court's review. It is 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 should 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.
Similarly, in Petry, this Court found no substantial
evidence for a finding that claimant would be off task 10% of
the time when the ALJ failed to explain the calculation.
Petry, 2017 WL 680379, at *2. This Court has
previously remanded when it “was unable to ascertain
whether the ALJ truly believed [claimant] to have moderate
difficulties in concentration, persistence, and pace, and how
those difficulties restrict her RFC to ‘simple 1-4
step, routine, repetitive tasks' without further
limitation.” Jones v. Comm'r, No. 15-2638,
2016 WL 4687678, at *3 (D. Md. Sept. 7, 2016). Here, the ALJ
also inadequately explained his conclusion that claimant was
limited to simple one to four step routine, repetitive tasks.
instant case, although the ALJ properly developed a record
with regard to the ALJ's work environment findings, the
ALJ omitted entirely any explanation for the finding of a one
to four step routine, repetitive tasks limitation. The ALJ
cited to evidence about claimant's personality disorders
and other medical evidence to support his work environment
finding, repeatedly opining that claimant has untreated
anxiety and a guarded personality. (Tr. 23). But there is no
such discussion for the type of tasks claimant can perform.
The ALJ notes that claimant has moderate difficulties in
concentration, persistence or pace, explaining that claimant
“reported difficulty with memory and
concentration” in her function reports; however, the
ALJ also makes repeated mentions of claimant's good
ability to complete daily tasks and her good concentration
and memory. (Tr. 20, 22-23) (noting a “well intact
executive function including a solid memory
performance” and “good eye contact,
concentration, and recent and remote memory”). But the
ALJ does not then explain why, given contradictory evidence,
he came to the conclusion that claimant can perform only one
to four step routine, repetitive tasks. The Court is left, as
it was in Jones, to wonder whether the ALJ truly
believed claimant had moderate difficulties and how these
difficulties then resulted in the one to four step
limitation. See Jones, supra, at *3
(finding the ALJ's assessment of contradictory testimony
and medical records as “insufficient to permit adequate
review.”). Without further explanation the Court cannot
adequately review the ALJ's determination. The ALJ's
decision therefore must be remanded for further explanation
on this point. In remanding, the Court expresses no opinion
as to whether the ALJ's ultimate conclusion on whether to
award benefits is correct or incorrect.
reasons set forth above, Ms. Eichelberger's Motion for
Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 15), is DENIED and Defendant's
Motion for Summary Judgment, (ECF No. 23), 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
the informal nature of this letter, it should be flagged as