United States District Court, D. Maryland
Commissioner, Social Security Administration,
Lawrence P. Demuth, Esq. Mignini, Raab & Demuth, LLP
Theodore A. Melanson, Esq. Mignini, Raab & Demuth, LLP
before this court, by the parties' consent (ECF Nos. 4,
7), are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment
(“Plaintiff's Motion”) (ECF No. 17),
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
(“Defendant's Motion”) (ECF No. 18), and
Plaintiff's Response to Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment (“Reply”) (ECF No. 19). The
undersigned must uphold the Commissioner's decision if it
is supported by substantial evidence and if proper legal
standards were employed. 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g),
1383(c)(3); Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th
Cir. 1996), superseded by statute, 20 C.F.R. §
416.927(d)(2). I have reviewed the pleadings and the record
in this case and find that no hearing is necessary. Loc. R.
105.6. For the reasons noted below, Plaintiff's Motion
(ECF No. 15) and Defendant's Motion (ECF No. 18) are
denied, the Commissioner's decision is reversed, and the
case is remanded to the Commissioner for further
consideration in accordance with this opinion.
February 18, 2014, plaintiff filed a Title II application for
a period of disability and disability insurance benefits,
alleging disability beginning on October 15, 2013. (R. at 65,
150). Her claim was initially denied on April 22, 2014 (R. at
74), and on reconsideration on October 10, 2014 (R. at 89).
After a hearing held on July 22, 2016, an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) issued a decision on November 25,
2016 denying benefits based on a determination that plaintiff
was not disabled. (R. at 19-30). The Appeals Council denied
plaintiff's request for review on August 16, 2017, making
the ALJ's opinion the final and reviewable decision of
the Commissioner. (R. at 1-4). Plaintiff challenges the
Commissioner's decision solely on the ground that the ALJ
failed to consider plaintiff's obesity as a medically
determinable, severe impairment pursuant to Social Security
Ruling (“SSR”) 02-1p.
contends that the ALJ “failed to consider
Plaintiff's obesity as a medically determinable, severe
impairment pursuant to SSR 02-1p, which infected each step in
the sequential evaluation process, rendering the decision
unsupported by substantial evidence.” (ECF No. 17-1 at
9.) According to SSR 02-1p, “the combined effects of
obesity with other impairments can be greater than the
effects of each of the impairments considered
separately.” SSR 02-1p, 2002 WL 34686281, at *1 (Sept.
12, 2002). Accordingly, SSR 02-1p instructs the ALJ to
“consider the effects of obesity . . . when assessing a
claim at other steps of the sequential evaluation process,
including when assessing an individual's residual
functional capacity.” Id.
noted by plaintiff, the record is replete with evidence of
plaintiff's obesity diagnosis. (ECF No. 17-1 at 10).
Accordingly, the ALJ was required to consider obesity in
determining whether plaintiff had: (1) a medically
determinable impairment; (2) a severe impairment; (3) an
impairment that meets or equals the requirements of a listed
impairment in the listings; and (4) an impairment that
prevents her from doing past relevant work and other work
that exists in significant numbers in the national economy.
SSR 02-1p, 2002 WL 34686281, at *3. Here, however, ALJ does
not so much as mention plaintiff's obesity in his
opinion. Thus, the court has no basis upon which to determine
whether the ALJ properly considered plaintiff's obesity.
See Radford v. Colvin, 734 F.3d 288, 295 (4th Cir.
2013) (“A necessary predicate to engaging in
substantial evidence review is a record of the basis for the
ALJ's ruling [including] specific application of the
pertinent legal requirements to the record evidence.”)
Accordingly, the court concludes that the ALJ's
evaluation of plaintiff's obesity is not supported by
substantial evidence and thus, remand is appropriate on this
reasons stated above, Plaintiff's Motion (ECF No. 17) and
Defendant's Motion (ECF No. 18) are DENIED. Pursuant to
sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), the
Commissioner's judgment is REVERSED due to inadequate
analysis. The case is REMANDED for further consideration in
accordance with this opinion.
the informal nature of this letter, it will constitute an
Order of the court and will be docketed accordingly. .
P. Gesner, Chief United ...