United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S
ALTERNATIVE MOTION FOR REMAND
M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge
Hiwet Temelso 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 her 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. 14) and Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment (ECF No. 15). Plaintiff contends that the
administrative record does not contain substantial evidence
to support the Commissioner's decision that she is not
disabled. No. hearing is necessary. L.R. 105.6. For the
reasons that follow, Plaintiff's alternative motion for
remand (ECF No. 14) is GRANTED.
1972, Plaintiff has a high-school education and previously
worked as a machine operator, first-aid assistant for a
nursing home, and cashier. R. at 487. Plaintiff protectively
filed applications for DIB and for SSI on May 10, 2012,
alleging disability beginning on September 24, 2010, due to
her back. R. at 168-81, 191, 195. The Commissioner denied
Plaintiff's applications initially and again on
reconsideration, so Plaintiff requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). R. at 51-103,
105-13. ALJ Eugene Bond held a hearing on March 20, 2014 (R.
at 33-50), and issued an unfavorable decision on May 7, 2014
(R. at 13-32). On June 30, 2015, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review. R. at 1-4, 12. Plaintiff
sought judicial review in this Court. Temelso v.
Colvin, Civil No. 15-2591-SAG (D. Md. filed Sept. 2,
2015). Upon the Commissioner's consent, the Court
remanded the case on April 12, 2016. R. at 560-63. The
Appeals Council vacated the ALJ's decision and remanded
the case on April 22, 2016. R. at 564-69.
September 15, 2016, ALJ Bond held a supplemental hearing in
Washington, D.C., at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert
(“VE”) testified. R. at 495-518. On November 2,
2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not
disabled from the alleged onset date of disability of
September 24, 2010, through the date of the decision. R. at
470-94. The Appeals Council apparently did not assume
jurisdiction, so the ALJ's decision became the final
decision of the Commissioner after remand under 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.984 and 416.1484.
February 25, 2017, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court
seeking review of the Commissioner's decision. After the
parties consented, this case was transferred to a United
States Magistrate Judge for final disposition and entry of
judgment. The case then was reassigned to the undersigned.
The parties have briefed the issues, and the matter is now
State Agency Medical Consultants
August 20, 2012, a state agency medical consultant, Ann L.
Williams, M.D., assessed Plaintiff's physical residual
functional capacity (“RFC”). R. at 56-58, 66-68.
Dr. Williams opined that Plaintiff could (1) lift and/or
carry twenty pounds occasionally and ten pounds frequently;
(2) stand and/or walk for a total of about six hours in an
eight-hour workday; (3) sit for about six hours in an
eight-hour workday; and (4) perform unlimited pushing and/or
pulling. R. at 56-57, 66-67. Dr. Williams also opined that
Plaintiff “[m]ust periodically alternate sitting and
standing to relieve pain and discomfort.” R. at 56, 66.
Plaintiff occasionally could balance, stoop, kneel, crouch,
crawl, and climb ramps and stairs (but never ladders, ropes,
or scaffolds). R. at 57, 67. Plaintiff had no manipulative,
visual, communicative, or environmental limitations. R. at
October 2, 2012, another state agency consultant, Earl
Nicholas, M.D., again assessed Plaintiff's physical RFC.
R. at 78-80, 89-91. Dr. Nicholas also opined that Plaintiff
could (1) lift and/or carry twenty pounds occasionally and
ten pounds frequently; (2) stand and/or walk for a total of
about six hours in an eight-hour workday; (3) sit for about
six hours in an eight-hour workday; and (4) perform unlimited
pushing and/or pulling. R. at 79, 90. Dr. Nicholas also
opined that Plaintiff “[m]ust periodically alternate
sitting and standing to relieve pain and discomfort.”
R. at 79, 90. Plaintiff occasionally could balance, stoop,
kneel, crouch, crawl, and climb ramps and stairs (but never
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds). R. at 79, 90. Like Dr.
Williams, Dr. Nicholas opined that Plaintiff had no
manipulative, visual, communicative, or environmental
limitations. R. at 80, 91.
decision, the ALJ stated that Plaintiff “alleges her
impairments have caused her to have decreased physical
limitations, which have allegedly resulted in her inability
to engage in work-related activities.” R. at 478.
Further, the VE testified that a hypothetical individual with
Plaintiff's same age, education, and work experience and
with the RFC outlined below in Part III could not perform
Plaintiff's past relevant work but could perform the
unskilled, light jobs of router, office helper, or ticket
taker. R. at 515-17. With the exception of her testimony
regarding a sit-stand option, the VE's testimony was
consistent with the Dictionary of Occupational
Titles. R. at 516-17.
of ALJ's Decision
November 2, 2016, the ALJ found that Plaintiff (1) had not
engaged in substantial gainful activity from the alleged
onset date of disability of September 24, 2010; and (2) had
an impairment or a combination of impairments considered to
be “severe” on the basis of the requirements in
the Code of Federal Regulations; but (3) did not have an
impairment or a combination of impairments meeting or
equaling one of the impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. pt.
404, subpt. P, app. 1; and (4) was unable to perform her past
relevant work; but (5) could perform other work in the
national economy, such as a ...