United States District Court, D. Maryland
CHANELL G. PARKER
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Stephanie A. Gallagher United States Magistrate Judge.
to Standing Order 2014-01, the above-referenced case has been
referred to me for review of the parties' dispositive
motions, [ECF Nos. 15, 20], and to make recommendations
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Local Rule
301.5(b)(ix). Plaintiff Chanell G. Parker, who proceeds
pro se, also filed a response to the Motion for
Summary Judgment submitted by the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”). [ECF No. 22]. I have
reviewed all of the filings, and I find that no hearing is
necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). This
Court must uphold the SSA's decision if it is supported
by substantial evidence and if the SSA 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 recommend that the Court
deny Ms. Parker's motion, grant the SSA's motion, and
affirm the SSA's judgment pursuant to sentence four of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g).
I note that Ms. Parker, assisted by her mother, argues that
the SSA erred by declining to reopen her 2008 claim for
benefits. [ECF No. 15]. Ms. Parker contends that she filed a
timely written request for a hearing in 2009, which somehow
was lost by the SSA. Id. In 2014, then, Ms. Parker
filed another written request for a hearing on her 2008
claim, which the SSA denied as untimely. [ECF No. 22-1]. The
propriety of the SSA's actions and rulings with respect
to that 2008 claim cannot be considered by this Court,
because this Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction. This
Court's jurisdiction is limited to reviewing decisions
made by the SSA after a hearing, and no such decision was
rendered in Ms. Parker's 2008 claim because a hearing was
not held. See Califano v. Sanders, 430 U.S. 99,
107-08 (1977) (“We also agree that § 205(g) cannot
be read to authorize judicial review of alleged abuses of
agency discretion in refusing to reopen claims for social
security benefits.”). Accordingly, review in this case
is limited to the SSA's final decision on Ms.
Parker's subsequent 2014 applications for benefits.
Parker filed claims for Child's Insurance Benefits and
Disability Insurance Benefits in April, 2014, alleging a
disability onset date of January 1, 1995. (Tr. 200-06). Her
claims were denied initially and on reconsideration. (Tr.
74-97, 100-21). A hearing was held on May 17, 2016, before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 33-61).
Following the hearing, the ALJ determined that Ms. Parker was
not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act
during the relevant time frame. (Tr. 12-32). On October 10,
2017, the Appeals Council (“AC”) adopted the
ALJ's findings, but also made additional findings
regarding Ms. Parker's eligibility for Child's
Insurance Benefits. (Tr. 1-9). Thus, the AC's opinion,
incorporating the ALJ's decision, constitutes the final,
reviewable decision of the SSA. Ms. Parker filed the instant
suit seeking review of that decision on November 8, 2017.
[ECF No. 1].
found that Ms. Parker suffered from the severe impairments of
“bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity
disorder (‘ADHD').” (Tr. 18). Despite these
impairments, the ALJ determined that Ms. Parker retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to:
perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but
with the following nonexertional limitations: she can have no
production rate or pace work, and no working with the public.
She needs isolated work with occasional supervision. She can
tolerate a low-stress environment with occasional
decisionmaking and occasional changes in the work setting.
Due to issues with fatigue, she would be off task ten percent
of the workday.
(Tr. 20). After considering the testimony of a vocational
expert (“VE”), the ALJ determined that Ms. Parker
could perform several jobs existing in significant numbers in
the national economy and that, therefore, she was not
disabled. (Tr. 24-25).
carefully reviewed the ALJ's opinion and the entire
record. See Elam v. Barnhart, 386 F.Supp.2d 746, 753
(E.D. Tex. 2005) (mapping an analytical framework for
judicial review of a pro se action challenging an
adverse administrative decision, including: (1) examining
whether the SSA's decision generally comports with
regulations, (2) reviewing the ALJ's critical findings
for compliance with the law, and (3) determining from the
evidentiary record whether substantial evidence supports the
ALJ's findings). For the reasons described below,
substantial evidence supports the ALJ's decision.
proceeded in accordance with applicable law at all five steps
of the sequential evaluation. The ALJ largely ruled in Ms.
Parker's favor at step one and determined that, despite
some work activity within the relevant time frame, there was
a continuous 12-month period during which she did not engage
in substantial gainful activity. (Tr. 17-18); see 20
C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i). The ALJ specified that the
remaining findings addressed the period(s) in which Ms.
Parker did not engage in substantial gainful activity. (Tr.
18). At step two, the ALJ considered the severity of each of
the impairments that Ms. Parker claimed prevented her from
working. See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii).
After finding several of Ms. Parker's impairments to be
severe, (Tr. 18), the ALJ continued with the sequential
evaluation and considered, in assessing Ms. Parker's RFC,
the extent to which all of her mental and physical
impairments limited her ability to work. (Tr. 20-24).
three, the ALJ determined that Ms. Parker's severe
impairments did not meet, or medically equal, the criteria of
any listings. (Tr. 19-20). In particular, the ALJ considered
the specific requirements of Listing 12.04 (affective
disorders). See 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P,
App'x 1 § 12.04. The ALJ concluded that Ms. Parker
had no restriction in her activities of daily living,
moderate difficulties in social functioning, and moderate
difficulties in concentration, persistence, or pace. (Tr.
19). The ALJ also found no episodes of decompensation of
extended duration. Id. The ALJ supported those
assessments with citations to the evidence of record.
Id. Under the mental health listings, a claimant
would need to show at least two areas of marked difficulty,
or repeated episodes of decompensation, to meet the listing
criteria. See 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App'x
1 § 12.04. Accordingly, the ALJ did not err by
concluding that the listings were not met.
considering Ms. Parker's RFC, the ALJ summarized her
subjective complaints from her filings and hearing testimony.
(Tr. 21). The ALJ then engaged in a detailed review of Ms.
Parker's limited medical records. Id. The ALJ
noted that Ms. Parker had stated at one point that she could
not afford ongoing therapy, but then stated at another point
that she has health insurance through her job. Id.
The ALJ also noted that Ms. Parker's symptoms had
improved during a brief period in which she obtained
treatment. (Tr. 22). More importantly, though, the ALJ
focused on Ms. Parker's “somewhat normal level of
daily activity and interaction, ” including
“working at multiple part time and full time jobs,
” sometimes at substantial gainful activity levels.
Id. The ALJ also assessed and made assignments of
weight to the medical opinions in the record. (Tr. 22-23). In
particular, the ALJ assigned “great weight” to
the opinion from Ms. Parker's treating psychiatrist in
May, 2009, who found only “mild difficulties”
with most of the vocationally relevant criteria. (Tr. 22).
The ALJ considered each of the GAF scores assessed by medical
sources. (Tr. 22-23). The ALJ also considered assessments
made in 2009 and 2014 by a consultative examiner, but noted
that the reports did not contain “medical opinions
expressed in function-by-function terms.” (Tr. 23). The
ALJ weighed, for longitudinal purposes given the longstanding
nature of Ms. Parker's condition, opinions from treating
and examining sources during Ms. Parker's childhood and
adolescence, but afforded them “little weight” as
not “vocationally relevant.” Id. The ALJ
expressly considered all of the information provided by Ms.
Parker's mother, but ultimately deemed her reports to be
“simply not consistent with the preponderance of the
opinions and observations by medical professionals in this
case.” Id. Finally, the ALJ assigned
“partial weight” to the opinions from the
non-examining State agency consultants, and specified which
portions of the opinions were afforded more or less weight.
my review of the ALJ's decision is confined to whether
substantial evidence, in the record as it was reviewed by the
ALJ, supports the decision and whether correct legal
standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402
U.S. 389, 390, 404 (1971). Even if there is other evidence
that may support Ms. Parker's position, I am not
permitted to reweigh the evidence or to substitute my own
judgment for that of the ALJ. See Hays v. Sullivan,
907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). In considering the
entire record, and given the evidence outlined above, I find
the ALJ's RFC determination was supported by substantial
the ALJ determined that Ms. Parker could not perform any past
relevant work. (Tr. 24). Accordingly, the ALJ proceeded to
step five and considered the impact of Ms. Parker's age,
level of education, and RFC on her ability to adjust to new
work. (Tr. 24-25). In doing so, the ALJ cited the VE's
testimony that a person with Ms. Parker's RFC would be
capable of performing the jobs of “conveyer
feeder” or “router.” (Tr. 25). Based on the
VE's testimony, then, the ALJ concluded that Ms. Parker
was capable of successfully adjusting to other jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the ...