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Williams v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

June 22, 2018

TAFT WILLIAMS, JR., Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Deputy Commissioner for Operations, Social Security Administration, Defendant.[1]

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S ALTERNATIVE MOTION FOR REMAND

          THOMAS M. DIGIROLAMO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Taft Williams, Jr., seeks judicial review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or the “Commissioner”) denying his applications for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and alternative motion for remand (ECF No. 15) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 20).[2] Plaintiff contends that the administrative record does not contain substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision that he is not disabled. No. hearing is necessary. L.R. 105.6. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's alternative motion for remand (ECF No. 15) is GRANTED.

         I

         Background

         Born in 1962, Plaintiff has a GED and previously worked as a maintenance engineer and quilting machine operator. R. at 24, 39-40. Plaintiff protectively filed applications for DIB on April 4, 2013, and for SSI on April 19, 2013, alleging disability beginning on September 15, 2009, due to depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. R. at 14, 212-15, 228. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's applications initially and again on reconsideration, so Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). R. at 83-134, 139-52. On July 31, 2015, ALJ Michael Carr held a hearing in Washington, D.C., at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. R. at 31-82. On August 26, 2015, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled from the alleged onset date of disability of September 15, 2009, through the date of the decision. R. at 11-30. Plaintiff sought review of this decision by the Appeals Council, which denied Plaintiff's request for review on February 15, 2017. R. at 1-5, 8. The ALJ's decision thus became the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.981, 416.1481; see also Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07, 120 S.Ct. 2080, 2083 (2000).

         On April 19, 2017, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court seeking review of the Commissioner's decision. Upon the parties' consent, this case was transferred to a United States Magistrate Judge for final disposition and entry of judgment. The case subsequently was reassigned to the undersigned. The parties have briefed the issues, and the matter is now fully submitted.

         II Summary of Evidence

         A. State Agency Consultants

         The ALJ noted in his decision:

Dr. Walls, the state agency reviewing psychologist, opined in June 2013 that [Plaintiff] can understand and remember very short, simple instructions. He can remember simple work locations and procedures. He will have some distractibility and slowed work pace because of his symptoms, but he can maintain attention and concentration for two-hour periods over an eight-hour day to carry out simple tasks at a productive pace. He will function best at tasks involving little to no interaction with others, and he will have limited tolerance for frequent, recurrent contact with the public. He can adapt to most changes and task demands on a sustained basis[.]

R. at 22; see R. at 87-92, 98-103.

         The ALJ further noted:

Dr. Mihm, the state agency reviewing psychologist, noted in August 2013 that [Plaintiff] can understand and remember very short, simple instructions. He can remember simple work locations and procedures. He will have some distractibility and slowed work pace because of his symptoms, but he can maintain attention and concentration for two-hour periods over an eight-hour day to carry out simple tasks at a productive pace. Occasionally his symptoms may intrude on his concentration and the completion of a workday. He can relate to others in the workplace on a superficial level, but he will perform best in a setting that does not require extensive social interaction. He can avoid ordinary hazards, and adapt to simple changes in the workplace, though changes should be introduced slowly. He can set goals and plans in the workplace[.]

R. at 22; see R. at 112-17, 125-30.

         B. ...


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