United States District Court, D. Maryland
April 24, 2017, Plaintiff Mary Roxanne Crocetti petitioned
this Court to review the Social Security Administration's
(“SSA's”) final decision to deny her claim
for disability benefits. [ECF No. 1]. I have considered the
parties' motions for summary judgment, and Ms.
Crocetti's reply. [ECF Nos. 17, 20, 21]. 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 Ms. Crocetti's motion, 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
Crocetti filed a claim for Disability Insurance Benefits
(“DIB”) on April 4, 2013, alleging a disability
onset date of June 15, 2011. (Tr. 185-88). Her claims were
denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr. 116-19,
121-22). A hearing was held on November 6, 2015, before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 43-88).
Following the hearing, the ALJ determined that Ms. Crocetti
was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security
Act during the relevant time frame. (Tr. 16-42). The Appeals
Council (“AC”) denied Ms. Crocetti's request
for review, (Tr. 1-5), so the ALJ's decision constitutes
the final, reviewable decision of the Agency.
found that Ms. Crocetti suffered from the severe impairments
of anxiety disorder and affective disorder. (Tr. 22). Despite
these impairments, the ALJ determined that Ms. Crocetti
retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but
with the following nonexertional limitations: she should be
expected to perform simple, routine, and repetitive tasks,
but not at a production rate pace, with only occasional
contact with the public, co-workers, and supervisors. In
addition, she may require time off task, which would be
accommodated by normal breaks.
(Tr. 24). After considering the testimony of a vocational
expert (“VE”), the ALJ determined that Ms.
Crocetti could perform jobs existing in significant numbers
in the national economy and that, therefore, she was not
disabled. (Tr. 37-38).
support of her appeal, Ms. Crocetti advances a single
argument: that the hypothetical the ALJ posed to the VE was
deficient because it did not define the term
“production rate pace.” Pl. Mot. 9-13. Ms.
Crocetti cites to a Seventh Circuit opinion in Varga v.
Colvin, 794 F.3d 809, 815 (7th Cir. 2015), as support
for her position. Although Ms. Crocetti suggests that
Varga was remanded for the ALJ's failure to
define “fast paced production, ” in fact, the
Varga court referenced that failure as just one of a
series of deficiencies. Id. at 814-15. Moreover,
even if a failure to define “fast paced
production” is erroneous, that phrase is
distinguishable from the phrase at issue in this case,
“production rate pace.” Different individuals can
have different conceptions of what work is or is not
“fast.” In contrast, although Ms. Crocetti cites
to cases using different phraseology to define
“production rate pace, ” the import of the
definitions in each case is that the work is required to be
performed to meet a particular quota in a short time, or is
akin to that performed on an assembly line, such that the
pace of work cannot be varied by an individual employee to
adjust for difficulties in concentration, persistence, or
pace. See, e.g., Hall v. Berryhill, No.
1:17-cv-00094-RJC, 2018 WL 1884987, at *2 (W.D. N.C. Apr. 19,
2018) (defining it as “no assembly line work or work
that is measured by production quotas”); Burton v.
Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., Civil No. SAG-15-3947,
2017 WL 532276, at *3 (D. Md. Feb. 9, 2017) (defining as
“having ‘to pace that work in a specified
manner' and not perform it at ‘a variable
pace'”); Chase v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec.
Admin., Civil No. SAG-14-2961, 2016 WL 199410, at *3 (D.
Md. Jan. 15, 2016) (defining it as “work such as would
be done on an assembly line”); Camden v.
Colvin, Civil No. SKG-13-1553, 2014 WL 2964992, at *2
(D. Md. June 26, 2014) (defining it as “paid by the
piece or working at an assembly line”). The slight
variations in wording in those cases do not indicate
materially different definitions of “production rate
the VE in this case expressed no confusion or uncertainty
about the meaning of the ALJ's hypothetical, although the
VE clarified that “[t]he DOT does not address
production standards.” (Tr. 83, 84). Ms. Crocetti's
attorney also did not express any confusion or ask for any
clarification at the hearing. (Tr. 85). While I may not go as
far as the SSA in suggesting that “production rate
pace” is a “term of art in the vocational
profession, ” it is a phrase subject to a common
understanding. No. precedent, binding or otherwise, requires
an additional definition to be presented in order for a
hypothetical containing the phrase “production rate
pace” to be understandable to a VE. Finally, Ms.
Crocetti does not contend that there is any particular
sustained pace required to perform any of the positions
identified by the VE in her case. Thus, even if the failure
to define “production rate pace” constituted
error, it would be harmless. Accordingly, remand is
reasons set forth herein, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment, [ECF No. 17], is DENIED, and Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment, [ECF No. 20], is GRANTED. The SSA's
judgment is AFFIRMED pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g). The Clerk is directed to CLOSE this case.
the informal nature of this letter, it should be flagged as
an opinion and docketed as an order.
Stephanie A. Gallagher United ...