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Lewis v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

September 26, 2018

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.[1]


         Thomas M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Latrice Lewis 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 and for Supplemental Security Income 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

         On July 27, 2016, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Thomas Mercer Ray found that Plaintiff was not disabled from November 4, 2012, through the date of his decision. R. at 16-26. In so finding, the ALJ

considered other factors including [Plaintiff's] activities of daily living and work history. [Plaintiff] reported to the State agency that despite her symptoms, she was able to prepare meals, get her daughter up for school, do some cleaning, laundry, dishes, ironing, vacuuming, house repairs, cleaning the restroom, and making the bed, use public transportation or walk to get around, drive if she had a car to use; shop in stores, and go to church, grocery stores, and other stores on a regular basis. At the hearing, [Plaintiff] also reported that she is able to drive but does not own a car and is able to help her mother clean and vacuum. The undersigned finds that these activities further support [Plaintiff's] ability to perform the work described in the residual functional capacity.

R. at 22 (citation omitted).

The ALJ then found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except [Plaintiff] can occasionally lift or carry 20 pounds [sic] and frequently lift or carry 20 pounds [sic], stand or walk for a total of 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, and sit for a total of 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. [Plaintiff] can push or pull as much as she can lift or carry. [Plaintiff] can frequently climb ramps or stairs, never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, frequently balance, occasionally stoop, kneel, and crouch, and never crawl. [Plaintiff] can have occasional exposure to noise, vibration, fumes, odors, dusts, gases, and poor ventilation. [Plaintiff] can have no exposure to hazards such as moving mechanical parts and unprotected heights. [Plaintiff] cannot operate a motor vehicle.

R. at 18-19. The ALJ found that Plaintiff's “medically determinable impairments could reasonably be expected to produce the above alleged symptoms; however, [her] statements concerning the intensity, persistence and limiting effects of these symptoms are not entirely consistent with the medical evidence and other evidence in the record for the reasons explained in this decision.” R. at 20.

         On February 17, 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.


         Disability Determinations and Burden of Proof

         The Social Security Act defines a disability as the inability to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment that can be expected to result in death or that has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than twelve months. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505, 416.905. A claimant has a disability when the claimant is “not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists . . . in significant numbers either in the region where such individual lives or in several regions of the country.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B).

         To determine whether a claimant has a disability within the meaning of the Social Security Act, the Commissioner follows a five-step sequential evaluation process outlined in the regulations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520, 416.920; see Barnhart v. Thomas, 540 U.S. 20, 24-25, 124 S.Ct. 376, 379-80 (2003). “If at any step a finding of disability or nondisability can be made, the [Commissioner] will not review the claim further.” Thomas, 540 U.S. at 24, 124 S.Ct. at 379; see 20 C.F.R. ยงยง 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). The claimant has the burden of production and proof ...

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