United States District Court, D. Maryland
Jennifer H. Stinnette, Esq.
Mr. Meredith and Counsel:
October 17, 2016, Plaintiff Herbert Russell Meredith
petitioned this Court to review the Social Security
Administration's (“SSA”) final decision to
deny his claim for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”). [ECF No. 1]. I have considered the
SSA's Motion for Summary Judgment and Mr. Meredith's
response, in addition to arguments made by Mr. Meredith's
former attorney during and following the administrative
hearing. [ECF Nos. 28, 30]. I find that no hearing is
necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). This
Court must uphold the decision of the Agency if it is
supported by substantial evidence and if the Agency employed
proper legal standards. See 42 U.S.C. §§
4051(g), 1383(c)(3); Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585,
589 (4th Cir. 1996). Under that standard, I will grant the
SSA's motion and affirm the SSA's judgment pursuant
to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This letter
explains my rationale.
Meredith filed a claim for DIB on June 1, 2012, alleging a
disability onset date of November 13, 2009. (Tr. 139-44). He
later amended his alleged onset date to the date of his
application. (Tr. 21). His claim was denied initially and on
reconsideration. (Tr. 70-73, 78-79). A hearing, at which Mr.
Meredith was represented by counsel, was held on April 9,
2015, before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”).
(Tr. 19-50). Following that hearing, the ALJ determined that
Mr. Meredith was not disabled within the meaning of the
Social Security Act during the relevant time frame. (Tr.
9-14). The Appeals Council denied Mr. Meredith's request
for review, (Tr. 1-5), so the ALJ's decision constitutes
the final, reviewable decision of the Agency.
found that, through his date last insured of June 30, 2014,
Mr. Meredith suffered from the severe impairments of
“diabetes mellitus, gout, kidney disease, hypertension,
and obesity.” (Tr. 11). Despite these impairments, the
ALJ determined that Mr. Meredith retained the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to:
perform light work, as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b), except
that he can no more than occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch,
crawl, and climb ladders, ropes, scaffolds, ramps, and
stairs; and no more than frequently balance.
(Tr. 12). After considering the testimony of a vocational
expert (“VE”), the ALJ determined that Mr.
Meredith could perform his past relevant work as a traffic
reporter, and, accordingly, was not disabled. (Tr. 14).
carefully reviewed the ALJ's opinion and the entire
record. See Elam v. Barnhart, 386 F.Supp.2d 746, 753
(E.D. Tex. 2005) (mapping an analytical framework for
judicial review of a pro se action challenging an
adverse administrative decision, including: (1) examining
whether the SSA's decision generally comports with
regulations, (2) reviewing the ALJ's critical findings
for compliance with the law, and (3) determining from the
evidentiary record whether substantial evidence supports the
ALJ's findings). For the reasons described below,
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision.
proceeded in accordance with applicable law at all five steps
of the sequential evaluation. The ALJ ruled in Mr.
Meredith's favor at step one, and determined that he had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity between his
alleged onset date and his date last insured. (Tr. 11);
see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i),
416.920(a)(4)(i). At step two, the ALJ then considered the
severity of each of the impairments that Mr. Meredith claimed
prevented him from working. See 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). The ALJ
determined that Mr. Meredith's diabetic peripheral
neuropathy was not documented in the medical record and
therefore was not a medically determinable impairment. (Tr.
11). However, after finding several of Mr. Meredith's
other impairments severe, id., the ALJ continued
with the sequential evaluation and considered, in assessing
Mr. Meredith's RFC, the extent to which his impairments
limited his ability to work.
three, the ALJ determined that Mr. Meredith's impairments
did not meet or medically equal the criteria of any listings.
Id. In particular, the ALJ considered the listings
applicable to diabetes mellitus (9.00), hypertension
(4.00(H)(1)), and kidney disease (6.05), but determined that
at least one criterion for each listing was not met.
Id. I have carefully reviewed the record, and I
agree that no listings are met in this case.
considering Mr. Meredith's RFC, the ALJ summarized his
subjective complaints from his hearing testimony. (Tr. 12).
The ALJ then engaged in a review of Mr. Meredith's
medical records. (Tr. 13). The ALJ noted, “Objective
clinical findings have been essentially normal, and the
claimant's chronic conditions are stable and controlled
with medication.” Id. The ALJ also observed
that Mr. Meredith “drives his wife to work nearly every
day, helps out around the house, remains interested in seeing
friends, drove himself to his hearing, and applied to jobs as
a truck driver since claiming total disability.”
Id. The ALJ assigned “great weight” to
the opinion rendered by the State medical consultant, Dr. W.
Hakkarinen, whose opinion is consistent with the RFC
assessment. Id. The ALJ noted that none of Mr.
Meredith's treating providers suggested any additional
functional limitations. Id.
my review of the ALJ's decision is confined to whether
substantial evidence, in the record as it was reviewed by the
ALJ, supports the decision and whether correct legal
standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390, 404 (1971). Even if there is other evidence
that may support Mr. Meredith's position, I am not
permitted to reweigh the evidence or to substitute my own
judgment for that of the ALJ. Hays v. Sullivan, 907
F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). In considering the entire
record, and the evidence outlined above, I find that the ALJ
supported his conclusion with substantial evidence.
relying on the VE's testimony, (Tr. 49), the ALJ
determined that a person with Mr. Meredith's RFC would be
capable of performing his past relevant work as a traffic
reporter. (Tr. 14). In fact, in Mr. Meredith's response,
he notes that the reason he left the traffic reporter job was
the unsafe vehicle he was asked to drive, not an inability to
perform the physical demands of the work. [ECF No. 30].
Accordingly, I find that the ALJ's determination must be
reasons set forth herein, Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment, (ECF No. 28), is GRANTED. The SSA's judgment is
AFFIRMED pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. ...