United States District Court, D. Maryland
DAVID COPPERTHITE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
31, 2017, Cory Beth McLemore ("Plaintiff")
petitioned this Court to review the Social Security
Administration's ("SSA") final decision to deny
her claim for Disability Insurance Benefits
("DIB"'). See ECF No. 1 ("the
Complaint"). After consideration of the Complaint, the
parties' cross-motions for summary' judgment (ECF
Nos. 15, 17), and the response thereto (ECF No. 18), the
Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See Loc.
R. 105.6 (D.Md. 2016). In addition, for the reasons that
follow. Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 15)
is DENIED and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
(ECF No. 17) is GRANTED.
22, 2013, Plaintiff filed a Title II application for DIB.
alleging disability beginning on January 16, 2010. Her claim
was denied initially and upon reconsideration on October 8,
2013 and February 28, 2014. respectively. Subsequently, on
April 24, 2014. Plaintiff filed a written request for a
hearing and, on February 2, 2016, an Administrative Law Judge
("ALT) presided over a video hearing. On March 2, 2016,
the ALJ rendered a decision ruling that Plaintiff "was
not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act
[(the "Act")], at any time from January 16, 2010.
the alleged onset date, through December 31, 2014, the date
last insured." ECF No. 9 at 33. Thereafter. Plaintiff
filed an appeal of the ALJ's disability determination
and, on June 13, 2017, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs
request for review. Thus, the decision rendered by the ALJ
became the final decision of the SSA. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.1481 (2018): see also Sims v. Apfel, 530
U.S. 103, 106-07 (2000).
31, 2017. Plaintiff filed the Complaint in this Court seeking
judicial review of the SSA's denial of his disability
application. On April 5, 2018. Plaintiff filed a Motion for
Summary Judgment, and Defendant filed a Motion for Summary
Judgment on May 30, 2018. On June 25, 2018, Plaintiff
responded to Defendant's motion. This matter is now fully
briefed and the Court has reviewed both parties' motions
and the response thereto.
Court is authorized to review the [SSA]'s denial of
benefits under 42 U.S.C.A. § 405(g)." Johnson
v. Barnhart. 434 F.3d 650. 653 (4th Cir. 2005) (per
curiam) (citation omitted). The Court, however, does not
conduct a de novo review of the evidence. Instead,
the Court's review of an SSA decision is deferential, as
"[t]he findings of the [SSA] as to any fact, if
supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive . . .
." 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); see Smith v.
Chater, 99 F.3d 635, 638 (4th Cir. 1996) ("The duty
to resolve conflicts in the evidence rests with the ALJ, not
with a reviewing court."); Smith v. Schweiker,
795 F.2d 343, 345 (4th Cir. 1986) ("We do not conduct a
de novo review of the evidence, and the [SSA]'s
finding of non-disability is to be upheld, even if the court
disagrees, so long as it is supported by substantial
evidence."' (citations omitted)). Therefore, the
issue before the reviewing court is not whether the plaintiff
is disabled, but whether the ALJ's finding that the
plaintiff is not disabled is supported by substantial
evidence and was reached based upon a correct application of
the relevant law. Brown v. Comm'r Soc. Sec.
Admin, 873 F.3d 251. 267 (4th Cir. 2017) ("[A]
reviewing court must uphold the [disability] determination
when an ALJ has applied correct legal standards and the
ALJ's factual findings are supported by substantial
evidence." (citation and internal quotation marks
evidence is that which a reasonable mind might accept as
adequate to support a conclusion. It consists of more than a
mere scintilla of evidence but may be less than a
preponderance." Pearson v. Colvin, 810 F.3d
204, 207 (4th Cir. 2015) (internal citations and quotation
marks omitted). "In reviewing for substantial evidence,
we do not undertake to reweigh conflicting evidence, make
credibility determinations, or substitute our judgment for
that of the ALJ. Where conflicting evidence allows reasonable
minds to differ as to whether a claimant is disabled, the
responsibility for that decision falls on the ALJ."
Hancock v. Astrue, 667 F.3d 470, 472 (4th Cir. 2012)
(internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Therefore,
in conducting the "substantial evidence" inquiry,
the court shall determine whether the ALJ has considered all
relevant evidence and sufficiently explained the weight
accorded to that evidence. Sterling Smokeless Coal Co. v.
Akers, 131 F.3d 438, 439-40 (4th Cir. 1997).
Determinations and Burden of Proof
order to be eligible for SSI, a claimant must establish that
she is under disability within the meaning of the Act. The
term "disability," for purposes of the Act, is
defined as the "inability to engage in any substantial
gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable
physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result
in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a
continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1505(a), 416.905(a). A claimant shall be
determined to be under disability where "[her] physical
or mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that
(she] is not only unable to do [her) previous work but
cannot, considering [her] age, education, and work
experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy[.p 42 U.S.C.
§§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B).
determining whether a claimant has a disability within the
meaning of the Act, the ALJ, acting on behalf of the SSA,
follows the five-step evaluation process outlined in the Code
of Federal Regulations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520,
416.920; see Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632. 634-35
(4th Cir. 2015). The evaluation process is sequential,
meaning that "[i]f at any step a finding of disability
or nondisability can be made, the SSA will not review the
claim further." Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S.
20, 24 (2003); see 20 C.F.R. §§
one, the ALJ considers the claimant's work activity to
determine if the claimant is engaged in "substantial
gainful activity." 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i), 4l6.920(a)(4)(i). If the claimant is
engaged in "substantial gainful activity." then the
claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i), 404.1520(b), 416.920(a)(4)(i), 416.920(b).
two, the ALJ considers whether the claimant has a
"severe medically determinable physical or mental
impairment [or combination of impairments] that meets the
duration requirement[.]" 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 4l6.920(a)(4)(ii). If the claimant does
not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments
meeting the durational requirement of twelve months, then the
claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 404.1520(c), 416.909, 416.920(a)(4)(ii),
three, the ALJ considers whether the claimant's
impairments, either individually or in combination, meet or
medically equal one of the presumptively disabling
impairments listed in the Code of Federal Regulations. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii).
If the impairment meets or equals one of the listed
impairments, then the claimant is considered disabled,
regardless of the claimant's age, education, and work
experience. 20 C.F.R. ...