United States District Court, D. Maryland
Stephen F. Shea, Esq. Elkind and Shea.
Lindsay Nicole Norris. Esq.
before this Court, by the parties' consent, are their
cross motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 2, 6, 15, 18).
The Court must uphold the Social Security
Administrations's (“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). 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,
Plaintiff's Motion is DENIED and the Defendant's
Motion is GRANTED. I am affirming the SSA's judgment.
August 21, 2012, Plaintiff filed a Title II Application for
Disability Insurance Benefits, alleging that disability began
on November 1, 2009. (Tr. 16). Plaintiff's application
was denied initially (January 22, 2013), and upon
reconsideration (July 16, 2013), by the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”). Id.
Plaintiff's request for a hearing was granted and
conducted on February 27, 2015 by Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Michael A. Krasnow. The ALJ issued his
decision that Plaintiff was not disabled on April 1, 2015.
(Tr. 12). The SSA Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review on October 9, 2015. (Tr. 6). Accordingly,
the ALJ's opinion became the final and reviewable
decision of the Commissioner. Id.
petitioned this Court on August 27, 2016, raising three
arguments. First, that the ALJ's Residual Functional
Capacity (“RFC”) determination was erroneous.
Second, that the ALJ did not appropriately evaluate the
Plaintiff's subjective complaints of pain. Third, that
the ALJ did not properly develop the record because he did
not order a consultative examination.
The RFC Determination
argues that the ALJ erred in performing the
function-by-function assessment of her ability to perform the
physical and mental demands of work. Specifically, Plaintiff
avers that the ALJ: 1) improperly evaluated the opinions of a
Disability Determination Service (“DDS”)
physician and a consultative examiner; and 2) failed to
explain why he did not include a sit/stand option in his
determination “must be based on all the relevant
evidence in [plaintiff's] case record. 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a)(1) (2012). The ALJ must include a narrative
discussion describing how the evidence supports his RFC
determination. Social Security Ruling (SSR) 96-8p, 61 Fed.
Reg. 34, 474, 34, 475 (July 2, 1996). The ALJ must
“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 **1, 2 (D. Md.
Feb. 21, 2017) (internal citations omitted). In evaluating
the ALJ's RFC determination, the Court's role is not
to “reweigh the evidence or to substitute its judgment
for that of the ALJ, but simply to adjudicate whether the
ALJ's decision was supported by substantial
evidence.” See Fulton v. Comm'r of Soc.
Sec., No. 15-2419, 2016 WL 1460463, at **1, 3 (D. Md.
Apr. 14, 2016) (internal citations omitted).
The ALJ's Findings
preliminary matter, I note that the ALJ's evaluation and
description of the evidence was comprehensive. The ALJ
considered objective medical evidence and subjective evidence
of Plaintiff's pain, including her complaints of
“chronic pain, arthritis, obesity, and anxiety.”
(See, e.g., Tr. 23). The ALJ also considered opinion
evidence from Drs. Hakkarinen, Singh, Brophy and Denekas, as
well as from consultative examiner Dr. Toloria Braswell, and
described the evaluations of Plaintiff's physical
ailments. (See Tr. 21-32, 34, 42, 88-89, 333-346,
ALJ's function-by-function analysis methodically
addressed plaintiff's abilities. For example, the ALJ
reviewed plaintiff's history of suffering from back
problems from the mid-1990's onward. (E.g., Tr.
23, 27). The ALJ discussed plaintiff's leg pain and
anxiety, and plaintiff's testimony that she can stand for
no more than five minutes at a time, that she can only lift
five to six pounds, and that she has difficulty sleeping.
(Tr. 23-27). In addition, the ALJ noted plaintiff's
ability to drive, her bi-weekly routine of visiting Walmart,
her capacity to sit at her sewing machine for twenty minutes
at a time, and her use of yoga to deal with her fibromyalgia.
(Tr. 24). Furthermore, the ALJ mentioned plaintiff's
vacationing on a Bahamian cruise when her ...