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Espanta v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

September 27, 2018

ARTURO ESPANTA, 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 Arturo Espanta 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 his application for disability insurance benefits 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. 11), Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16), and Plaintiff's “Reply Brief” (ECF No. 17).[2] Plaintiff contends that the administrative record does not contain substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision that he is not disabled. No. hearing is necessary. L.R. 105.6. For the reasons that follow, Plaintiff's alternative motion for remand (ECF No. 11) is GRANTED.

         I

         Background

         Following a hearing on December 29, 2016, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Michael A. Krasnow found on February 7, 2017, that Plaintiff was not disabled from January 1, 2014, through the date of the ALJ's decision. R. at 16-39. In so finding, the ALJ found that, with regard to concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace, Plaintiff had moderate limitation. R. at 25

Medical records indicate that prescription medications cause no side effects. [Plaintiff] reportedly needs reminders for grooming and hygiene, but [Plaintiff] drinks alcohol every day and [Plaintiff] did not comply with prescribed treatment. Even so, [Plaintiff] can pay attention for an hour, play golf, drive a car in a major metropolitan area, and pay attention for an hour at a time. Records evidence no more than moderate limitation in this domain despite treatment noncompliance and daily alcohol.

R. at 25.

         The ALJ then found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)

to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except [Plaintiff] can never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds but can occasionally climb ramps and stairs and occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, or crawl. [Plaintiff] must avoid concentrated exposure to hazards such as moving machinery and unprotected heights. [Plaintiff] is limited to jobs involving simple, routine, repetitive tasks with no production rate for pace of work. [Plaintiff] is limited to jobs involving frequent interaction with the general public. He can tolerate noise at no more than moderate intensity level as defined in the Selected Characteristics of Occupations.

R. at 26. The ALJ then determined that, although Plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work as a purchasing agent and storekeeper, he could perform other work, such as a marker, router, or non-postal mail clerk. R. at 33-34.

         After the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, Plaintiff filed on June 2, 2017, 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

         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 . . ...


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