United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S
ALTERNATIVE MOTION FOR REMAND
M. DIGIROLAMO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Christina Ann Hildebrandt 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
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and alternative
motion for remand (ECF No. 13) and Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14). 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. 13) is GRANTED.
1975, Plaintiff has a high-school education and previously
worked as a nursing assistant and daycare teacher. R. at 27.
Plaintiff protectively filed an application for DIB on
February 6, 2014, alleging disability beginning on January 9,
2014, due to rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. R. at
20, 154-57, 178. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's
application initially and again on reconsideration, so
Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”). R. at 68-92, 95-99. On May 9,
2016, ALJ Raghav Kotval held a hearing in Baltimore,
Maryland, where Plaintiff and a vocational expert
(“VE”) testified. R. at 34-67. On June 29, 2016,
the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled from
the alleged onset date of disability of January 9, 2014,
through the date of the decision. R. at 17-33. Plaintiff
sought review of this decision by the Appeals Council, which
denied Plaintiff's request for review on June 6, 2017. R.
at 1-6, 149-53, 239-41. 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).
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 the ALJ's decision:
[Plaintiff] noted that she was 325 pounds, at 5'7”.
She is left-handed. She and her husband live with her
in-laws. The house has a staircase that she uses about three
times per day. She can drive a car for 45 minutes to an hour.
Her mother-in-law drove her to the hearing. [Plaintiff] took
some college courses. She has past work as a certified
nursing assistant and as a geriatric nursing assistant. She
obtained certifications in both areas, and also has a
certification to work at day cares and pre-schools. She
testified that she stopped working in 2014 because she was
diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis and was experiencing
significant pain. Her pain started in her hips, especially
her right hip. She continued her care with her primary care
doctor, Dr. Mata, who gave her infusions. They were helpful.
She can no longer afford the infusions and they are no longer
covered by insurance. Her husband helps with activities of
daily life, such as dressing, because of her hand cramps. She
lies down three or four hours out of an eight hour day. She
stated that she is easily distracted because of her pain. She
does not have a lot of energy. She can alternate between
sitting and standing for about three hours and then needs to
lie down for about the same amount of time. She does not use
a computer. She takes Lexapro for depression. It is
prescribed by her primary care provider. She does not see a
psychologist or psychiatrist.
24-25; see R. at 41-49, 51-60.
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 unskilled, sedentary jobs of document
preparer, addresser, or order clerk. R. at 62-63. An individual
who could not stoop or who needed to lie down for two hours a
day could not engage in competitive employment. R. at 64, 66.
An individual missing more than twelve to fifteen days at
work annually because of unscheduled absences would not be
employable. R. at 66. To maintain employment, an individual
would need to be productive at least 85% of the time on the
job. R. at 66. With the exception of her testimony regarding
a sit-stand option, the VE's testimony was consistent
with the Dictionary of Occupational
Titles. R. at 64-65.
of ALJ's Decision
29, 2016, the ALJ found that Plaintiff (1) had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of
disability of January 9, 2014; and (2) had an impairment or a
combination of impairments considered to be
“severe” on the basis of the requirements in the
Code of Federal Regulations; but (3) did not have an
impairment or a combination of impairments meeting or
equaling one of the impairments set forth in 20 C.F.R. pt.
404, subpt. P, app. 1; and (4) was unable to perform her past
relevant work; but (5) could perform other work in the
national economy, such as a ...