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Glover v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

September 27, 2018

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

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Thomas M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Cheryl Glover 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 under Title II of the Social Security Act. Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 13) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16).[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, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16) is GRANTED, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 13) is DENIED, and the Commissioner's final decision is AFFIRMED.

         I Background

         On February 10, 2016, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Andrew M. Emerson found that Plaintiff was not disabled from July 13, 2012, through the date last insured of December 31, 2015. R. at 12-32. In so finding, the ALJ found that, through the date last insured, Plaintiff had several severe impairments. R. at 17. The ALJ found, however, that Plaintiff's “medically determinable mental impairments of an acute reaction to stress, depression and anxiety disorder, considered singly and in combination, did not cause more than minimal limitation in [her] ability to perform basic mental work activities through December 2015 and were therefore non-severe.” R. at 19. In finding that Plaintiff's mental impairments were not severe, the ALJ noted that “no treating or examining mental health professional opined that [she] had any work-related limitations from a mental health impairment.” R. at 21.

         After determining that Plaintiff's impairments did not meet or medically an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1, the ALJ determined that, through the date last insured, Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)

to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except she could occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, crouch, crawl and climb ramps and stairs but could not climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds, had to avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, extreme heat, excessive vibration, and hazardous moving machinery and unprotected heights.

R. at 21-22.

         The ALJ noted Plaintiff's testimony that “she experiences anxiety and has dark days on which she cannot function although she also testified that she experiences such days only once a month.” R. at 22. The ALJ found, however, that Plaintiff's “activities of daily living during the period at issue were also inconsistent with an individual who was experiencing disabling symptoms.” R. at 25. The ALJ found that Plaintiff's “medically determinable impairments could reasonably be expected to produce the alleged symptoms but the statements concerning the intensity, duration and limiting effects of [Plaintiff's] symptoms are not entirely credible and are inconsistent with the totality of the evidence.” R. at 27. The ALJ ultimately found that, through the date last insured, Plaintiff was capable of performing her past relevant work as a secretary/administrative assistant, leasing agent, community manager, and compliance liaison. R. at 27.

         After the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court on August 2, 2017, 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 . . . 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. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4). The claimant has the burden of production and proof at steps one through four. See Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 146 n.5, 107 S.Ct. 2287, 2294 n.5 (1987); Radford v. Colvin, 734 F.3d 288, 291 (4th Cir. 2013).

         First, the Commissioner will consider a claimant's work activity. If the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, then the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i).

         Second, if the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, the Commissioner looks to see whether the claimant has a “severe” impairment, i.e., an impairment or combination of impairments that significantly limits the claimant's physical or mental ability to do basic work activities. Pass v. Chater, 65 F.3d 1200, 1203 ...


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