United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
Frederick A. Raab Mignini, Raab & Demuth, LLP Theodore A.
Melanson Mignini, Raab & Demuth, LLP
Sahai Special Assistant United States Attorney
HONORABLE GINA L. SIMMS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
before this Court, by the parties' consent, are
Plaintiff's and Defendant's respective Motions for
Summary Judgment. (ECF Nos. 16, 19). 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, both Motions are DENIED and the SSA's judgment is
remanded for further consideration.
filed a Title II Application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits on July 30, 2013, alleging that
disability began on July 20, 2013. (Tr. 21). This claim was
denied on February 11, 2014 and upon reconsideration on June
12, 2014. Id. Plaintiff filed a written request for
a hearing on June 18, 2014 and the hearing was conducted on
February 20, 2016 by Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) Andrea McBarnette. Id. The ALJ
decided that Plaintiff was not disabled from July 20, 2013
under sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act.
Id. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review and the ALJ's opinion became the final
and reviewable decision of the SSA on June 19, 2017. (Tr. 1).
Motion for Summary Judgment, Plaintiff asserts that the
ALJ's decision at step four of the sequential evaluation
process was not supported by substantial evidence because the
ALJ failed to consider whether the work claimant performed
was done under special conditions pursuant to 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1573. (ECF No. 16 at 8). Defendant argues in its
Motion for Summary Judgment that the ALJ properly considered
any special conditions that Plaintiff received in her past
work and thus the ALJ's step four determination was
supported by substantial evidence. (ECF No. 19 at 5).
claimant's work activity is done under special
conditions, an ALJ may properly find that it does not show
that claimant has the ability to do substantial gainful
activity (“SGA”). 20 C.F.R. § 404.1573(c).
If claimant was forced to stop or reduce her work because of
the removal of the special conditions that were related to
her impairment and essential to your work, an ALJ may find
that her work does not show that she is able to do SGA.
Id. Examples of special conditions that may relate
to a claimant's impairment(s) include situations where
claimant was allowed to work irregular hours or take frequent
rest periods; where claimant was able to work only because of
specially arranged circumstances, where claimant was
permitted to work at a lower standard of productivity or
efficiency than other employees; or where claimant was given
the opportunity to work despite claimant's impairment
because of a family relationship. Id.
Young v. Comm'r Soc. Sec, this Court found in
part that the ALJ's failure to consider whether the
plaintiff's previous part time employment was done under
special conditions pursuant to 20 C.F.R. § 404.1573(c)
required remand for further review. Young v. Comm'r
Soc. Sec, Civ. No. 17-0375, 2017 WL 4642011, at *2 (D.
Md. Oct. 17, 2017). Because 20 CFR 404.1573(c) provides that
an ALJ may still find that a claimant has the ability to
perform at the SGA level even if the work was in fact done
under special conditions, there must be some “objective
corroboration of record from the claimant's employer(s)
or elsewhere demonstrating that the claimant did not have the
necessary skills and ability to work during the alleged
closed period” to disturb the ALJ's decision.
Proffitt v. Colvin, No. 15-CV-493, 2017 WL 536076,
at *4 (W.D. Va. Jan. 24, 2017).
Young, I find that the ALJ here did not sufficiently
examine whether claimant worked under any special conditions.
Young, 2017 WL 4642011, at *2. Here, Plaintiff
argues that the ALJ did not consider whether that
claimant's past work as a secretary in her father's
business was performed under special conditions that
accommodated her impairments. (ECF No. 16 at 8). The ALJ
found that claimant was paid at SGA level since at least the
mid-1990s and that “it was not entirely clear what, if
any, accommodations were made for claimant to complete her
work. (Tr. 26). This finding seems inconsistent with the
record where claimant states specifically that she lost her
job because her father, who was her employer, died. (Tr. 39).
I find that the record further shows that her father allowed
her to work irregular hours and not work on days she felt
unwell. (Tr. 45). Claimant also states that the job was at
the house she has lived in her entire life and that the sole
reason her father gave her a secretary position in his paving
business was because of her impairment. (Tr. 50-51).
findings suggest that Plaintiff received some accommodation
due to her impairment. This case is distinguishable from
Proffitt, where the ALJ also considered the
plaintiff's testimony as to his special accommodations,
but noted that because there was no objective evidence in the
record supporting that contention, the ALJ's decision
must be affirmed. Proffitt, 2017 WL 536076, at *4.
Here, I find that there is objective evidence in the record
that could support a conclusion that Plaintiff's work as
a secretary in her father's business was due to
accommodations being provided to her and thus Plaintiff's
work activity does not show an ability to perform at the SGA
level. (Tr. 45-47, 50-51). The ALJ's decision therefore
must be remanded for further explanation on this point. In
remanding, the Court expresses no opinion as to whether the
ALJ's ultimate conclusion on whether to award benefits is
correct or incorrect.