United States District Court, D. Maryland
November 8, 2017, Plaintiff David Camden petitioned this
Court to review the Social Security Administration's
(“SSA's”) final decision to deny his claims
for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security
Income. (ECF No. 1). I have considered the parties'
cross-motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 14, 17). I find
that no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D.
Md. 2016). This Court must uphold the decision of the Agency
if it is supported by substantial evidence and if the Agency
employed proper legal standards. See 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3); Craig v. Chater, 76
F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996). Under that standard, I will
deny Plaintiff's motion, grant the SSA's motion, and
affirm the SSA's judgment pursuant to sentence four of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). This letter explains my rationale.
Camden protectively filed his claims for benefits in May,
2013, alleging a disability onset date of April 4, 2012. (Tr.
163-71).His claims were denied initially and on
reconsideration. (Tr. 72-82, 84-95). A hearing was held on
August 2, 2016, before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). (Tr. 39-71). Following the hearing, on
September 15, 2016, the ALJ determined that Mr. Camden was
not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act
during the relevant time frame. (Tr. 18-33). The Appeals
Council denied Mr. Camden's request for further review,
(Tr. 1-7), so the ALJ's decision constitutes the final,
reviewable decision of the Agency.
found that Mr. Camden suffered from the severe impairments of
“an affective disorder, a learning disorder,
degenerative disc disease, a personality disorder and
arthritis.” (Tr. 21). Despite these impairments, the
ALJ determined that Mr. Camden retained the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to:
perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and
416.967(c) except that the claimant can lift and carry 25
pounds frequently and 50 pounds occasionally. He can sit,
stand or walk for six hours in an eight-hour day. The
claimant can constantly push or pull at the medium exertional
level. He is limited to understanding, remembering and
carrying out short, simple instructions consistent with the
performance of unskilled work. The claimant is limited to
occasional interaction with supervisors, co-workers and the
public. He cannot perform production rate work, but can
perform goal-oriented work. Finally, he is not to be required
to perform jobs that require reading or writing above the
third grade level.
(Tr. 24). After considering the testimony of a vocational
expert (“VE”), the ALJ determined that Mr. Camden
could perform his past relevant work and that, therefore, he
was not disabled. (Tr. 31-33).
Camden raises two arguments on appeal: (1) that the ALJ
failed to properly assess Mr. Camden's mental RFC; and
(2) that the ALJ failed to properly explain the weight given
to the opinion of Dr. McDonald. Pl. Mot. 7-12. Both arguments
lack merit for the reasons discussed below.
Mr. Camden asserts that the ALJ's mental RFC assessment
ran afoul of the Fourth Circuit's decision in Mascio
v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632, 635-37 (4th Cir. 2015), because
the ALJ failed to conduct a function-by-function analysis.
Specifically, Mr. Camden argues the ALJ's analysis was
flawed because it addressed neither Mr. Camden's ability
to respond appropriately to usual work situations, nor his
ability to deal with changes in a routine work setting. Pl.
Mot. 8. At step three in the sequential analysis,
see 20 C.F.R §§ 404.1520(a)(4),
416.920(a)(4), the ALJ found Mr. Camden had “moderate
difficulties” in social functioning. (Tr. 23). The ALJ
accounted for those difficulties in the RFC by limiting Mr.
Camden to “occasional interaction with supervisors,
co-workers and the public.” (Tr. 24). The ALJ discussed
numerous observations from Mr. Camden's medical history
and daily activities that supported his conclusion that Mr.
Camden did not have a greater need for social limitations or
an inability to respond to work situations, including: that
Mr. Camden went out with his friends, (Tr. 25), that Mr.
Camden attended and socialized at a fundraiser for a local
hospital, (Tr. 27), and that Mr. Camden's treating
physicians regularly noted he was cooperative and displayed a
“normal mood and normal affect, ” (Tr. 25-27).
regards to Mr. Camden's ability to deal with changes in a
routine work setting, the ALJ found at step three that Mr.
Camden did not have any episodes of decompensation of an
extended duration. (Tr. 24). Episodes of decompensation are
characterized, in part, by “a loss of adaptive
functioning.” 20 C.F.R Pt. 404, Subpt. P, App. 1
§12.00(C)(4) (2016). In the RFC analysis the ALJ also
cited to the State agency medical consultants' findings
that Mr. Camden had “no adaptation limitations, ”
(Tr. 29), and the State consultants further noted in their
reports that Mr. Camden “[c]an adapt to most changes
and task demands on a sustained basis, ” (Tr. 80, 93).
Ultimately, my review of the ALJ's decision is confined
to whether substantial evidence, in the record as it was
reviewed by the ALJ, supports the decision and whether
correct legal standards were applied. See Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390 (1971). Even if there is
other evidence that may support Mr. Camden's position, I
am not permitted to reweigh the evidence or to substitute my
own judgment for that of the ALJ. See Hays v.
Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). In
considering the entire record, and given the evidence
outlined above, I find the ALJ's evaluation of Mr.
Camden's mental RFC was supported by substantial
Camden also argues that the ALJ failed to adequately explain
why the opinion evidence of a non-treating consultative
examiner, Dr. Nancy McDonald, was only given “very
limited weight.” Pl. Mot. 9-12. The ALJ explained that
Dr. McDonald's two reports were based on evaluations
conducted “well prior to the claimant's alleged
onset date, ” and were “only partly consistent
with the record as a whole.” (Tr. 30). The relevant
findings by Dr. McDonald were that Mr. Camden had
“borderline intellectual functioning . . . in the
mentally retarded range.” (Tr. 30). This finding by Dr.
McDonald was based on an IQ test in which Mr. Camden scored
in the bottom one percentile of overall “full
scale” intellectual functioning. (Tr. 954). Dr.
McDonald explained in her treatment notes that Mr.
Camden's overall score was lowered by his impairment in
“working memory, ” and that his “verbal
comprehension, perceptual reasoning, and processing speed
were found to be at the borderline range of
functioning.” (Tr. 954-55). In her second report, Dr.
McDonald noted Mr. Camden was “functioning below the
normal range of intelligence at the borderline range.”
(Tr. 965). Elsewhere in the decision, the ALJ discussed
evidence in the record that was inconsistent with Dr.
McDonald's findings, such as an observation that Mr.
Camden displayed “an excellent fund of knowledge,
” repeated observations that Mr. Camden exhibited
“good insight and judgment, ” and that his
thoughts were logical and goal directed with “concrete
thought processes.” (Tr. 26-27). Therefore, the
ALJ's explanation for the assignment of weight to Dr.
McDonald's opinion evidence was sufficient, and does not
reasons set forth above, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment (ECF No. 14) is DENIED and Defendant's Motion
for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 17) is GRANTED. The Clerk is
directed to CLOSE this case.
the informal nature of this letter, it should be flagged as
an opinion and docketed as an order.
Stephanie A. Gallagher, United ...