United States District Court, D. Maryland
David Copperthite, United States Magistrate Judge
31, 2017. Lacey Renee Prickett ("Plaintiff')
petitioned this Court to review the Social Security
Administration's C'SSA") final decision to deny
her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits ("DIB")
and Supplemental Security Income ("SSI").
See ECF No. 1 ("the Complaint"). After
consideration of the Complaint, the parties"
cross-motions for summary judgment (ECF Nos. 20 & 23),
and the response thereto (ECF No. 26), the Court finds that
no hearing is necessary. See Loc.R. 105.6 (D.Md.
2016). In addition, for the reasons that follow, Plaintiffs
Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 20) is DENIED,
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 23) is
DENIED, and the decision of the SSA is REMANDED for
proceedings consistent with this opinion.
January 31. 2013. Plaintiff filed a Title II application for
DIB as well as a separate Title XVI application for SSI.
which both alleged disability beginning on April 1. 2009. Her
claims were denied initially and upon reconsideration on May
13, 2013 and January 2, 2014, respectively. Subsequently, on
February 7, 2014, Plaintiff filed a written request for a
hearing and, on October 13, 2015, an Administrative Law Judge
("ALT) presided over a hearing held in Dover, Delaware.
At the hearing. Plaintiff amended her alleged onset date to
June 29, 2012. ECF No. 13 at 21. On February 3. 2016, the ALJ
rendered a decision ruling that Plaintiff "ha[d] not
been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security
Act [("the Act")], from June 29, 2012, through the
date of this decision." Id. at 34. Thereafter.
Plaintiff filed an appeal of the ALTs disability
determination and, on May 28, 2017, the Appeals Council
denied Plaintiffs request for review. Thus, the decision
rendered by the ALJ became the final decision of the SSA.
See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1481 (2017); see also
Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).
31. 2017. Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this Court seeking
judicial review of the SSA's denial of her disability
applications. On December 22, 2017, Plaintiff filed a Motion
for Summary Judgment, and on March 22, 2018, Defendant filed
a Motion for Summary Judgment. Plaintiff filed a response on
April 5, 2018. This matter is now fully briefed and
the Court has reviewed both parties' motions for summary
Court is authorized to review the [SSA]'s denial of
benefits under 42 U.S.C.A. § 405(g)." Johnson
v. Barnhart, 434 F.3d 650, 653 (4th Cir. 2005) (per
curiam) (citation omitted). The Court, however, does not
conduct a de novo review of the evidence. Instead,
the Court's review of an SSA decision is deferential, as
"[t]he findings of the [SSA] as to any fact, if
supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive."
42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see Smith v. Chaler, 99
F.3d 635, 638 (4th Cir. 1996) ("The duty to resolve
conflicts in the evidence rests with the ALJ, not with a
reviewing court.*'); Smith v. Schweiker, 795
F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir. 1986) ("We do not conduct a
Je novo review of the evidence, and the
Secretary's finding of non-disability is to be upheld,
even if the court disagrees, so long as it is supported by
substantial evidence." (citations omitted)). Therefore,
the issue before the reviewing court is not whether the
plaintiff is disabled, but whether the ALJ's finding that
the plaintiff is not disabled is supported by substantial
evidence and was reached based upon a correct application of
the relevant law. Brown v. Comm'r. Soc. Sec.
Admin., 873 F.3d 251, 267 (4th Cir. 2017) ("[A]
reviewing court must uphold the [disability] determination
when an ALJ has applied correct legal standards and the
ALJ's factual findings are supported by substantial
evidence." (citation and internal quotation marks
evidence is that which a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion. It consists of more than a
mere scintilla of evidence but may be less than a
preponderance." Pearson v. Colvin, 810 F.3d
204, 207 (4th Cir. 2015) (citation and internal quotation
marks omitted).-iIn reviewing for substantial
evidence, we do not undertake to reweigh conflicting
evidence, make credibility determinations, or substitute our
judgment for that of the ALJ. Where conflicting evidence
allows reasonable minds to differ as to whether a claimant is
disabled, the responsibility for that decision falls on the
ALJ." Hancock v. Astrue, 667 F.3d 470, 472 (4th
Cir. 2012) (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).
Therefore, in conducting the "substantial evidence"
inquiry, the court shall determine whether the ALJ has
considered all relevant evidence and sufficiently explained
the weight accorded to that evidence. Sterling Smokeless
Coal Co. v. Akers, 131 F.3d 438, 439-40 (4th Cir. 1997).
Determinations and Burden of Proof
order to be eligible for DIB and SSI. a claimant must
establish that he is under disability within the meaning of
the Act. The term "disability/" for purposes of the
Act, is defined as the "inability to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months." 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A),
1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505, 416.905. A
claimant shall be determined to be under disability where
"[her] physical or mental impairment or impairments are
of such a severity that [she] is not only unable to do [her]
previous work but cannot, considering [her] age, education,
and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial
gainful work which exists in the national economy[.]" 42
U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B).
determining whether a claimant has a disability within the
meaning of the Act. the ALJ. acting on behalf of the SSA,
follows the five-step evaluation process outlined in the Code
of Federal Regulations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,
416.920; see Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632. 634-35
(4th Cir. 2015). The evaluation process is sequential,
meaning that "[i]f at any step a finding of disability
or nondisability can be made, the [SSAJ will not review the
claim further." Barnhart v. Thomas. 540 U.S.
20, 24 (2003); see 20 C.F.R. §§
one. the ALJ considers the claimant's work activity to
determine if the claimant is engaged in "substantial
gainful activity." 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i). 416.920(a)(4)(i). If the claimant is
engaged in "substantial gainful activity, " then
the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i), 404.1520(b), 416.920(a)(4)(i), 416.920(b).
two, the ALJ considers whether the claimant has a
"severe medically determinable physical or mental
impairment [or combination of impairments] that meets the
duration requirement[.r 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). lithe claimant does
not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments
meeting the durational requirement of twelve months, then the
claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 404.1520(c), 416.909. 416.920(a)(4)(ii),
three, the ALJ considers whether the claimant's
impairments, either individually or in combination, meet or
medically equal one of the presumptively disabling
impairments listed in the Code of Federal Regulations. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii).
If the impairment meets or equals one of the listed
impairments, then the claimant is considered disabled,
regardless of the claimant's age, education, and work
experience. 20 C.F.R. ...