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James P. v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

October 19, 2018

JAMES P., 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 James P. 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 (ECF No. 16) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (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, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 17) is GRANTED, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 16) is DENIED, and the Commissioner's final decision is AFFIRMED.

         I Background

         On October 13, 2016, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Irving A. Pianin held a hearing where Plaintiff and a vocational expert testified. R. at 34-61. The ALJ thereafter found on October 20, 2016, that Plaintiff was not disabled from December 12, 2012, through the date of the ALJ's decision. R. at 18-33. In so finding, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)

to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except [Plaintiff] requires the option to alternate between sitting and standing on an occasional basis during the workday. [Plaintiff] can perform no more than occasional postural activity, and he cannot kneel or squat. [Plaintiff] requires work involving no climbing, or exposure to heights or hazards. He can perform no more than occasional overhead reaching with the right, dominant arm.

R. at 24. The ALJ found that, although Plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work as a carpenter, carpentry supervisor, and construction superintendent, he was capable of performing other work, such as an officer helper, information clerk, or cashier. R. at 28-29. Plaintiff thus was not disabled from December 12, 2012, through October 20, 2016. R. at 29-30. The ALJ further stated:

At the hearing, the undersigned denied the motion to delay to obtain additional medical records. The undersigned notes that [Plaintiff's] representatives have been appointed to the case since December of 2013, providing them with ample time to obtain any outstanding medical records. Accordingly, the motion to delay to obtain additional medical evidence is hereby denied, because there is no basis to support a delay.

R. at 21; see R. at 38-39.

         After the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, Plaintiff filed a complaint in this Court on August 29, 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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