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Clark v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

September 24, 2018

TAWANA CLARK, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.[1]

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S ALTERNATIVE MOTION FOR REMAND

          Thomas M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Tawana Clark seeks judicial review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or the “Commissioner”) denying her applications for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and alternative motion for remand (ECF No. 16) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 19).[2] 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. 16) is GRANTED.

         I Background

         Born in 1979, Plaintiff has an eighth-grade education and no past relevant work. R. at 27, 191. Plaintiff protectively filed applications for DIB and for SSI on June 13, 2013, alleging disability beginning on May 18, 2012 (later amended to February 28, 2014), due to a learning disability, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and depression. R. at 19, 37, 154-65, 190. The Commissioner denied Plaintiff's applications initially and again on reconsideration, so Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). R. at 59-115. On July 26, 2016, ALJ Edward L. Brady held a hearing where Plaintiff and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. R. at 34-58. On August 9, 2016, the ALJ issued a decision finding Plaintiff not disabled from May 18, 2012, through the date of the decision. R. at 16-33. Plaintiff sought review of this decision by the Appeals Council, which denied Plaintiff's request for review on June 5, 2017. R. at 1-6, 130-31, 244. 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 (2000).

         On August 8, 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 fully submitted.

         II Summary of Evidence

         A. Plaintiff's Testimony

         The ALJ reviewed Plaintiff's testimony in his decision:

[Plaintiff] reported she experienced mood swings and a lack of energy. She also alleged memory loss and difficulty with concentration deficits. She reported that she often experienced mood swings, crying spells and anxiety. She also indicated that she experienced paranoid feelings and sometimes [thought] that people were trying to hurt her, which is why she was separated from her husband. She also alleged a history of self-mutilation[.]

R. at 25; see R. at 40-53, 196-203, 211-24, 251.

         B. VE Testimony

         The VE 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 perform the unskilled jobs of industrial cleaner, production helper, or bakery worker.[3]R. at 54-55. Being off task more than 15% of a day would preclude all work, however. R. at 55-56. According to the VE, his testimony was consistent with the Dictionary of Occupational Titles.[4] R. at 56.

         III Summary of ALJ's Decision

         On August 9, 2016, the ALJ found that Plaintiff (1) had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 18, 2012; 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) had no past relevant work; but (5) could perform other work in the national economy, such as an industrial cleaner, ...


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