United States District Court, D. Maryland
STEPHANIE A. GALLAGHER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
March 15, 2017, Plaintiff Pamela Ruth Duvall petitioned this
Court to review the Social Security Administration's
final decision to deny her claim for benefits. [ECF No. 1]. I
have considered the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment and Plaintiff's reply. [ECF Nos. 16, 17, 18]. 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. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3); Craig v.
Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996). Under that
standard, I will deny both motions, reverse the judgment of
the Commissioner, and remand the case to the Commissioner for
further analysis pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). This letter explains my rationale.
Duvall protectively filed a claim for Disability Insurance
Benefits on April 2, 2013, alleging a disability onset date
of June 6, 2012. (Tr. 136-42). Her claim was denied
initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. 58-66, 68-77, 79-82,
87-88). A hearing was held on August 25, 2015, before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 26-57).
Following the hearing, the ALJ determined that Ms. Duvall was
not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act
during the relevant time frame. (Tr. 9-25). The Appeals
Council (“AC”) denied Ms. Duvall's request
for further review, (Tr. 1-5), so the ALJ's decision
constitutes the final, reviewable decision of the Agency.
found that Ms. Duvall suffered from the severe impairments of
“bipolar disorder and depression.” (Tr. 14).
Despite these impairments, the ALJ determined that Ms. Duvall
retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but
with the following nonexertional limitations: because of her
mental impairments, she can perform jobs consisting of
unskilled, routine and repetitive tasks; involving only
simple, work-related decisions; with only occasional changes
in the routine work setting; with only occasional
interactions with supervisors, coworkers and the public; and
she can sustain concentration and attention for at least 2
hour increments with normal breaks.
(Tr. 16). After considering the testimony of a vocational
expert (“VE”), the ALJ determined that Ms. Duvall
could perform several jobs existing in the national economy,
and therefore was not disabled. (Tr. 20-21).
Duvall raises two arguments on appeal: (1) that the ALJ erred
at step three of the sequential evaluation by failing to
evaluate whether her impairments met or equaled the criteria
set forth in Listing 12.05C; and (2) that the ALJ's
decision runs afoul of the Fourth Circuit's decision in
Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632 (4th Cir. 2015). Pl.
Mot. 8-22. I agree that the ALJ should have identified and
evaluated Listing 12.05C, given the other findings the ALJ
made throughout his decision. In so holding, I express no
opinion as to whether the ALJ's ultimate conclusion that
Ms. Duvall is not entitled to benefits is correct.
satisfy Listing 12.05, a claimant must meet the criteria of
the introductory paragraph and one of four subsections,
identified as subsections A, B, C, or D. See 20
C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1 § 12.05 (2015); see
also Jackson v. Astrue, 467 Fed.Appx. 214, 217 (4th Cir.
2012). The introductory paragraph of Listing 12.05 requires a
showing of “significantly subaverage general
intellectual functioning with deficits in adaptive
functioning initially manifested during the developmental
period; i.e., the evidence demonstrates or supports onset of
the impairment before age 22.” 20 C.F.R., Pt. 404,
Subpt. P, App. 1 § 12.05. Deficits in adaptive
functioning may include “limitations in areas such as
communication, self-care, home living, social/interpersonal
skills, use of community resources, self-direction,
functional academic skills, work, leisure, health, and
safety.” Jackson, 467 Fed.Appx. at 218.
Relevant to the instant case, subsection C of Listing 12.05
requires a showing of two distinct prongs: (1) “[a]
valid verbal, performance, or full scale IQ of 60 through
70;” and (2) “a physical or other mental
impairment imposing an additional and significant
work-related limitation of function.” 20 C.F.R., Pt.
404, Subpt. P, App. 1 § 12.05(C).
case, by the ALJ's own findings, there is ample evidence
regarding each of the criteria of Listing 12.05C, such that
the listing should have been discussed in detail. First, the
ALJ found that Ms. Duvall has a “limited education,
” (Tr. 20), and that she has moderate difficulties in
two specific areas of adaptive functioning: social
functioning and concentration, persistence or pace, (Tr. 15).
The finding regarding Ms. Duvall's education suggests
that her issues may have manifested before age 22, at least
to the extent required to identify and discuss Listing 12.05.
As to the remaining two factors, the ALJ found that a medical
provider had opined that Ms. Duvall had a valid IQ score of
63, and that Ms. Duvall suffers from bipolar disorder and
depression, which are mental impairments imposing an
additional and significant limitation on her work-related
functioning. (Tr. 14, 18). Thus, without opining as to
whether or not Ms. Duvall's impairments meet or equal all
of the listing criteria, it is evident by the ALJ's
opinion that Listing 12.05C should have been identified and
analyzed. See Huntington v. Apfel, 101 F.Supp.2d
384, 390 (D. Md. 2000) (citing Cook v. Heckler, 783
F.2d 1168, 1172 (4th Cir. 1986)); Ketcher v. Apfel,
68 F.Supp.2d 629, 645 (D. Md. 1999) (noting that the
“duty of identification of relevant listed impairments
and comparison of symptoms to Listing criteria is only
triggered if there is ample evidence in the record to support
a determination that the claimant's impairment meets or
equals one of the listed impairments”). Accordingly,
remand is appropriate to permit that analysis.
result of the remand to address Listing 12.05C, I need not
determine whether the ALJ's RFC assessment comported with
Mascio. On remand, the ALJ should also consider
whether additional limitations or explanations are necessary
to address Ms. Duvall's difficulties with concentration,
persistence, or pace.
reasons set forth above, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment [ECF No. 16] is DENIED, and Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment [ECF No. 17] is DENIED. Pursuant to
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the
Commissioner'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