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King v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 29, 2018

ANGELA DENISE AKINS KING, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.[1]

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S ALTERNATIVE MOTION FOR REMAND

          THOMAS M. DIGIROLAMO, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Angela Denise Akins King 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 Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment and alternative motion for remand (ECF No. 15) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 18).[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, Plaintiffs alternative motion for remand (ECF No. 15) is GRANTED

         I Background

         Born in 1967, Plaintiff has a high-school education and previously worked as a security supervisor, security guard, corrections officer, and deputy sheriff. R. at 32, 46, 48-49, 58. Plaintiff filed an application for DIB on August 12, 2013, alleging disability beginning on April 2, 2013. R. at 21, 166-72. The Commissioner denied Plaintiffs application initially and again on reconsideration, so Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). R. at 78-108. On January 19, 2016, ALJ Hope Grunberg held a hearing in Baltimore, Maryland, at which Plaintiff and a vocational expert ("VE") testified. R. at 40-77. On February 4, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled from the alleged onset date of disability of April 2, 2013, through the date of the decision. R. at 18-39. Plaintiff sought review of this decision by the Appeals Council, which denied Plaintiffs request for review on February 17, 2017. R. at 1-7, 15-17, 273-74. The ALJ's decision thus became the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981; see also Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 106-07, 120 S.Ct. 2080, 2083 (2000).

         On March 31, 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. Roderick Haithcock, M.D.

         The ALJ reviewed the opinion of Roderick Haithcock, M.D., in her decision:

Roderick Haithcock, M.D., [Plaintiffs] former primary care provider, stated in December 2013 that because [Plaintiff] cannot carry a gun she is completely and totally disabled. Dr. Haithcock stated in June 2014 [Plaintiff] has been totally disabled since July 2011 and cannot sit, stand, or walk for more than ten minutes. Dr. Haithcock added in July 2014 [Plaintiff] cannot walk even one block, can sit for no more than twenty minutes at a time and less than two hours in a workday, and can stand for no more than fifteen minutes at a time and less than two hours in a workday. Dr. Haithcock indicated [Plaintiff] must walk every thirty minutes for twelve minutes at a time without a use of an assistive device and will require five thirty-minute breaks to lie down during the workday. Dr. Haithcock indicated [Plaintiff] can never lift, twist, crouch, or climb and can rarely stoop. He further opined [Plaintiff] can reach or handle objects up to one percent of the day, perform fine manipulation up to three percent of the day, will be off task twenty-five percent of the day, can tolerate only low stress work, and will miss more than four days each month.

         R. at 29 (citations omitted); see R. at 448, 528-31, 534.

         B. Plaintiff's Testimony

         The ALJ reviewed Plaintiffs testimony in her decision:

[Plaintiff] alleges she cannot work due to her degenerative disc disease and knee degeneration. [Plaintiff] indicated she has difficulty sitting for long periods due to back and neck pain and has joint pain with standing or walking. She indicated her back pain and neck pain interfere with her sleep and cause her to move more slowly. She testified she has a burning sensation in her neck and back that causes numbness and tingling in her arms and hands and weakens her grip. She also testified her lower back pain runs down her legs and prevents her from walking. She also stated her knees swell and cannot bend fully, and her pain interferes with her ability to concentration during the day.
Functionally, [Plaintiff] estimated she can sit twenty minutes at a time, stand fifteen to twenty minutes at a time, and walk five minutes at a time. She testified she can lift no more than ten pounds. [Plaintiff] testified she uses a cane and back brace and has required a walker since her knee surgery.

         R. at 26 (citations omitted); see R. at 46-69, 212-13, 231.

         C. ...


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