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Waggy v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 10, 2018

OLIVIA WAGGY, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.[1]

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Thomas M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Olivia Waggy seeks judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or the “Commissioner”) denying her application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act. Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 19).[2] 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, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 19) is GRANTED, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16) is DENIED, and the Commissioner's final decision is AFFIRMED.

         I Background

         Born in 1955, Plaintiff has a high-school education and previously worked as a deli clerk and kitchen helper. R. at 24, 40-41. On November 18, 2011, Plaintiff protectively filed an application for DIB, alleging disability beginning on January 4, 2008, due to a learning disability, high blood pressure, and depression. R. at 102, 254-55, 285, 289. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's application initially and again on reconsideration, so Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). R. at 83-98, 124-32. On March 10, 2014, ALJ Alma S. de Leon held a hearing at which Plaintiff pro se and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. R. at 33-60. Plaintiff at the hearing amended her alleged onset date of disability to March 21, 2011. R. at 179-80. On March 13, 2014, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled from March 21, 2011, through the date of the decision. R. at 99-117. On February 2, 2016, the Appeals Council granted Plaintiff's request for review, vacated the ALJ's decision, and remanded the case for further proceedings. R. at 118-23.

         On November 7, 2016, ALJ Nicolas R. Foster held a supplemental hearing at which another VE and Plaintiff, now represented by counsel, testified. R. at 61-82. On January 13, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled from March 21, 2011, through the date last insured of June 30, 2015. R. at 10-31. Plaintiff sought review of this decision by the Appeals Council, which denied Plaintiff's request for review on June 3, 2017. R. at 1-5, 252-53. 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 August 3, 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

         The Court reviews here and in Part VI below the relevant evidence.

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         The ALJ reviewed Plaintiff's testimony in his decision:

[Plaintiff] alleges disability secondary to diagnoses of depression, an anxiety disorder and borderline intellectual functioning. [Plaintiff] indicated that her impairments affect her memory, concentration and understanding as well as her ability to complete tasks and get along with others. She testified that she has difficulty reading and that she gets frustrated writing letters or a journal due to her alleged memory issues. She also noted that she has difficulty with spelling. She indicated that she has some issues with concentrating and that she will occasionally fall asleep while doing tasks. Finally, [Plaintiff] indicated that she has been prescribed multiple medications to treat her impairments and that they have caused side effects such as sleepiness.

R. at 20. Plaintiff also testified that she stopped working on March 21, 2011, because her employer went out of business. R. at 66, 67-68.

         B. VE's Testimony

         The VE testified that an individual limited to the full range of medium, unskilled work could perform Plaintiff's past work as a deli clerk and kitchen helper. R. at 64-65, 79. Plaintiff's past job as a deli clerk would be available to an individual limited to the full range of light, unskilled work.[3] R. at 80. According to the VE, his testimony was consistent with the Dictionary of Occupational Titles.[4] R. at 80.

         III Summary of ALJ's Decision

         On January 13, 2017, the ALJ found that, through the date last insured of June 30, 2015, Plaintiff (1) had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of disability of March 21, 2011; 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 able to perform her past relevant work as a deli ...


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