United States District Court, D. Maryland
October 2, 2017, Plaintiff Debra Kim Jobes petitioned this
Court to review the Social Security Administration's
(“SSA's”) final decision to deny her claims
for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security
Income. (ECF No. 1). I have considered the parties'
cross-motions for summary judgment, and Ms. Jobes's
reply. (ECF Nos. 16, 17, 18). I find that no hearing is
necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). This
Court must uphold the decision of the Agency if it is
supported by substantial evidence and if the Agency 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). For the reasons set forth below, I will
deny both motions, reverse the SSA's decision, and remand
the case to the SSA for further analysis pursuant to sentence
four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This letter explains my
Jobes protectively filed her claims for benefits on February
27, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of February 26,
2014. (Tr. 220-21, 222-28). Her claims were denied initially
and on reconsideration. (Tr. 97-106, 107-16, 119-29,
130-140). A hearing was held on July 7, 2016, before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 50-96).
Following the hearing, the ALJ determined that Ms. Jobes was
not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act
during the relevant time frame. (Tr. 27-49). The Appeals
Council (“AC”) denied Ms. Jobes's request for
further review, (Tr. 1-7), so the ALJ's decision
constitutes the final, reviewable decision of the Agency.
found that Ms. Jobes suffered from the severe impairments of
“osteoarthritis of the right knee, cervicalgia with
left shoulder pain, chronic venous insufficiency, and
obesity.” (Tr. 32). Despite these impairments, the ALJ
determined that Ms. Jobes retained the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to:
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) and
416.967(a), except she can never climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds and she can occasionally climb ramps and stairs,
balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl.
(Tr. 37). After considering the testimony of a vocational
expert (“VE”), the ALJ determined that Ms. Jobes
could perform several jobs existing in significant numbers in
the national economy and that, therefore, she was not
disabled. (Tr. 43-44).
Jobes raises two primary arguments on appeal: (1) that the
ALJ improperly evaluated Listing 1.04A; and (2) that the ALJ
failed to support her RFC determination with substantial
evidence. Pl. Mot. 9-26; Pl. Resp. 2-8. I agree that the
ALJ's RFC analysis is flawed, and I therefore remand. In
remanding for additional explanation, I express no opinion as
to whether the ALJ's ultimate conclusion that Ms. Jobes
is not entitled to benefits is correct.
Jobes contends that the ALJ failed to support her RFC
assessment with substantial evidence by failing to explain
why no manipulative limitations were warranted based on Ms.
Jobes's cervicalgia and shoulder pain. Pl. Mot. 20-26. I
Court must remand when the ALJ fails to explain why relevant
limitations were not included in the RFC. Mascio v.
Colvin, 780 F.3d 632, 638 (4th Cir. 2015). When a
claimant has an impairment causing both strength limitations
and nonexertional limitations, the ALJ must consider first
whether a finding of disability is warranted based on the
strength limitations alone and then how the nonexertional
limitations may further limit the claimant's work
capability. See 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 2
§ 200.00(e)(2); SSR 96-8p, 1996 WL 374184, at *5 (S.S.A.
1996); SSR 83-14, 1983 WL 31254, at *2 (S.S.A. 1983)
(“For example, at all exertional levels, a person must
have certain use of the arms and head to grasp, hold, turn,
raise, and lower objects.”).
two, the ALJ specifically found Ms. Jobes's
“cervicalgia with left shoulder pain” to be a
“severe impairment.” (Tr. 32). Ms. Jobes's
treating physician, Dr. Shukla, opined that she had limited
manipulative functioning, including reaching. (Tr. 625). The
ALJ referred to findings of pain triggered by motion in the
shoulders on multiple occasions. See, e.g., (Tr. 39)
(“the treatment notes indicate . . . a general level of
pain and difficulty reaching overhead with the right upper
extremity.”). The ALJ wrote in the RFC assessment,
“[t]here is no evidence of significant abnormalities in
the bilateral upper extremities that would warrant
manipulative limitations as her physical and diagnostic
findings have been largely unremarkable, aside from . . .
occasional tenderness and pain with motion in the
shoulders.” (Tr. 40). The ALJ also wrote that Ms.
Jobes's physical examinations contained “minimal
shoulder findings aside from . . . lumbar and cervical spine
tenderness, and cervical spine pain with motion on
occasion.” (Tr. 40). Despite these references to Ms.
Jobes's cervicalgia with associated shoulder pain
throughout the decision, the ALJ failed to include any
explanation as to why that impairment did not necessitate any
manipulative limitations involving the upper extremities. The
ALJ cited Ms. Jobes's crocheting as something that
“belies significant hand limitation, ” (Tr. 40),
but did not cite or discuss any evidence regarding her use of
her shoulders for functional activity. Accordingly, the
ALJ's decision leaves no basis upon which this Court can
review this issue. Remand is therefore warranted.
the case is being remanded on other grounds, I need not
address whether the ALJ adequately considered Listing 1.04A.
Pl. Mot. 9-19; Pl. Resp. 2-8. On remand, the ALJ should
review the issue and determine whether additional discussion
of Listing 1.04 is required.
reasons set forth above, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 16) is DENIED, and Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 17) is DENIED. Pursuant to
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the SSA's
judgment is REVERSED IN PART due to inadequate analysis. The
case is REMANDED for further proceedings in accordance with
this opinion. The Clerk is directed to CLOSE this case.
the informal nature of this letter, it should be flagged as