United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S
ALTERNATIVE MOTION FOR REMAND
M. DIGIROLAMO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Stephanie Little 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.
the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and
alternative motion for remand (ECF No. 17) and
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No.
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, Plaintiff's alternative motion for remand (ECF
No. 17) is GRANTED.
1975, Plaintiff has a college education and previously worked
as a contract specialist, assistant controller, audit clerk,
and receptionist. R. at 35, 198, 206, 210. Plaintiff
protectively filed an application for DIB on November 21,
2012, alleging disability beginning on November 19, 2010, due
to bipolar disorder; major depression; post-traumatic stress
disorder; panic/anxiety disorder; chronic gastritis;
osteoarthritis of the knees, feet, neck, and spine; edema,
diabetes, anemia, fibromyalgia, and scoliosis. R. at 21,
155-60, 206, 209. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's
application initially and again on reconsideration, so
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”). R. at 71-97, 99-113. On April 5,
2016, ALJ Thomas Mercer Ray held a hearing in Washington,
D.C., where Plaintiff and a vocational expert
(“VE”) testified. R. at 43-70. On June 17, 2016,
the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled from
the alleged onset date of disability of November 19, 2010,
through the date of the decision. R. at 18-42. Plaintiff
sought review of this decision by the Appeals Council, which
denied Plaintiff's request for review on May 11, 2017. R.
at 1-7, 153-54, 291-93. 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
11, 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 then was reassigned to the undersigned.
The parties have briefed the issues, and the matter is now
Summary of Evidence
reviewed Plaintiff's testimony in his decision:
At the hearing, [Plaintiff] testified that she could not work
due to the following impairments: arthritis, fibromyalgia,
neuropathy, and depression as well as symptoms of headaches,
suicidal/homicidal thoughts, and problems with memory,
concentration, and sleep cycle. [Plaintiff] further alleged
bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), panic
disorder, anxiety disorder, chronic gastritis, osteoarthritis
of the knees, feet, neck, and spine, edema, type II diabetes
mellitus, iron deficiency, anemia, lumbar scoliosis and
bulging discs, racing thoughts, panic attacks, and crying
[Plaintiff] testified she graduated from high school and has
a B.A. degree in fine arts. She last worked in Washington, DC
as a contract specialist and stopped in November 2010 due to
a motor vehicle accident. She was on short-term disability
until 2013. She had a flare up of fibromyalgia after the
motor vehicle accident. She also has neuropathy. She has had
physiological impairments since 2008. She had psychiatric
hospitalizations in 2012 and 2014 for suicidal/homicidal
thoughts. She has problems with concentration, memory, and
sleep cycle, and she keeps a sleep log. As aforementioned,
she testified to not going out much (the last time was a year
ago), difficulty being around unfamiliar people, reading only
a few pages of a book before getting bored, and falling
asleep while watching TV. However, she also testified to
driving her mother's car and having a couple of friends
she texts or calls.
R. at 28 (citation omitted); see R. at 53-64.
testified that a hypothetical individual with the same age,
education, and work experience as Plaintiff and with the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”) outlined
below in Part III could not perform Plaintiff's past work
but could perform the light, unskilled jobs of mail clerk,
router, or photocopy machine operator. R. at 67-68. No.
unskilled work would be available to such a hypothetical
individual who additionally would be productive for only 80%
of an eight-hour workday. R. at 68. Further, no unskilled
work would be available to such a hypothetical individual
absent from work for two days per month on an unscheduled
basis. R. at 68-69. With the exception ...