Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Daemer v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 24, 2018

Daemer
v.
Berryhill[1]

         Dear Counsel:

         Pending before this Court, by the parties' consent, are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment. (ECF Nos. 17, 21). The Court must uphold the Social Security Administration (“SSA”)'s decision 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) (2016); Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996). The substantial evidence rule “consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a preponderance.” Craig, 76 F.3d at 589. This Court shall not “re-weigh conflicting evidence, make credibility determinations, or substitute [its] judgment” for that of the SSA. Id. Upon review of the pleadings and the record, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. L.R. 105.6. For the reasons set forth below, Plaintiff's Motion is DENIED and Defendant's Motion is GRANTED. I am affirming the SSA's judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed a Title II Application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits on October 11, 2013, alleging that disability beginning November 1, 2010. (Tr. 15). This claim was denied on January 10, 2014 with no reconsideration. Id. Plaintiff's written request for a hearing was granted on January 21, 2014, and the hearing was conducted on October 27, 2015 by Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) William A. Kurlander. Id. A supplemental hearing was held on May 10, 2016. Id. On July 29, 2016, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled under §§ 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act from the alleged onset date to the date last insured, June 30, 2016. (Tr. 34). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on May 25, 2017. (Tr. 1-3). The ALJ's opinion became the final and reviewable decision of the SSA on May 25, 2017. (Tr. 1).

         In her Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff asserts the following: 1) that the ALJ failed to account for the claimant's limitations in concentration, persistence, or pace when assessing her residual functional capacity (“RFC”) at step 4 of the sequential evaluation process, and 2) that the ALJ failed to discuss what weight was given to the opinion of Emanual Schnepp, Ph.D., a State agency psychiatric consultant, in the ALJ's decision. (ECF No. 17 at 12). Defendant asserts in its Motion for Summary Judgment that substantial evidence exists to support the SSA's conclusion that the claimant was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act from the alleged onset date to the date last insured. (ECF No. 21 at 5).

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Residual Functional Capacity

         When a claimant alleges mental impairments, the ALJ will look at the “paragraph B criteria” to assess how an alleged mental impairment limits the claimant's functioning. 20 C.F.R. Part 404 Subpart P, App. 1, § 12.00(2)(b). The criteria are: 1) understanding, remembering, or applying information; interacting with others; concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace; and adapting or managing oneself. Id. To satisfy the “paragraph B criteria”, a claimant's mental disorder(s) must result in “extreme” limitation of one, or “marked” limitation of two of the four areas of mental functioning. Id. The Fourth Circuit held that an ALJ does not account “for a claimant's limitations in concentration, persistence, and pace by restricting the hypothetical question to simple, routine tasks or unskilled work.” Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632, 638 (4th Cir. 2015). The Fourth Circuit further explains that “the ability to perform simple tasks differs from the ability to stay on task. Only the latter limitation would account for a claimant's limitation in concentration, persistence, or pace.” Id.

         1. Plaintiff's Argument and Analysis

         Plaintiff contends that the ALJ failed to account for the claimant's limitations in concentration, persistence, or pace by failing to find that Plaintiff had a limited ability to stay on task, which Plaintiff argues is inconsistent with the Fourth Circuit's holding in Mascio. (ECF No. 17 at 13). The Fourth Circuit in Mascio stated that because there was no explanation as to whether the plaintiff's limitation in concentration, persistence, or pace affects her ability to work, a remand was necessary, Mascio, 780 F.3d at 638. Here, the ALJ sufficiently examined whether Plaintiff's limitations affected her concentration, persistence, or pace. See Tr. 20. The ALJ found that Plaintiff exhibited at least some degree of concentration, persistence, and imagination based on her ability to look for work, her application for housing through some type of government program, her pursuit of enhanced visitation and custody of her children, her use of social media, a treating source's finding that she was capable of maintaining a therapy dog, and her caring for a dog for a friend. (Tr. 25). Further, a plaintiff's mental impairments concerning concentration, persisting, or maintaining pace would have to be “extreme” to satisfy the paragraph B criteria. See 20 C.F.R. Part 404 Subpart P, App. 1, § 12.00(2)(b).

         Here, Plaintiff makes no contention that her alleged mental impairments were “extreme, ” nor does Plaintiff claim that she had “marked” limitations in both concentration, persistence, or pace and another paragraph B area. (ECF No. 17 at 13-15). Unlike the ALJ in Mascio, the ALJ in this case properly accounted for claimant's limitations in determining her RFC and found that she was capable of successfully adjusting to unskilled, light work, which exists in significant numbers in the national economy. (Tr. 25-26).

         B. Weight of Medical Opinion

         The SSA will give a treating source's medical opinion controlling weight, on the issue of the nature and severity of a claimant's impairment(s), if it is well-supported by medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic techniques and is consistent with the other substantial evidence in the record. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2).[2] Unless a treating source's opinion is given controlling weight, the ALJ must explain the weight given to the opinions of a State agency medical or psychological consultant. Id. ALJs must consider, but are not bound by, any findings made by State agency medical or psychological consultants. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c)(2)(ii) (2012). When an ALJ considers medical opinions, she or he will evaluate the findings using the following factors: the length of the treatment relationship and the frequency of examination, the nature and extent of the treatment relationship, the supportability of the medical opinion, how consistent a medical opinion is with the record as a whole, the specialization of the physician, and other factors brought to the SSA's attention. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527(c).

         Plaintiff argues that the ALJ failed to consider or assign what weight the ALJ would give to the opinion of Emanual Schnepp, Ph.D when assessing Plaintiff's RFC. (ECF No. 17 at 16). The ALJ's opinion contains no evaluation on Dr. Schnepp's opinion. (Tr. 17-27). Defendant suggests that the ALJ's omission is harmless, as it would not “warrant the inclusion of ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.