United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S
ALTERNATIVE MOTION FOR REMAND
M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge.
Lisa D. 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 and
alternative motion for remand (ECF No. 12) and
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No.
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, Plaintiff's alternative motion for remand (ECF
No. 12) is GRANTED.
7, 2016, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Tom
Duann held a hearing where Plaintiff and a vocational expert
(“VE”) testified. R. at 28-47. The ALJ thereafter
found on July 20, 2016, that Plaintiff was disabled from
August 12, 2012, through August 12, 2014, but not thereafter.
R. at 8-26. In so finding, the ALJ found that, from August
12, 2012, through August 12, 2014, Plaintiff had the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”)
to perform sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a),
except she can engage in no more than occasional ramps and
stairs, no ladders, ropes, and scaffolds, occasional
stooping, kneeling, and crouching, and no crawling. She must
avoid exposure to unprotected heights and hazards, and she
requires more than one hour of unscheduled breaks in a
typical day due to symptom flare-ups.
R. at 17. Thus, in light of Plaintiff's age, education,
work experience, and RFC during this period, the ALJ found
that there were no jobs that existed in significant numbers
in the national economy that Plaintiff could have performed,
so the ALJ found that she was disabled from August 12, 2012,
through August 12, 2014. R. at 19. The ALJ found, however,
that medical improvement related to the ability to work
occurred as of August 13, 2014. R. at 20. Beginning on that
date, Plaintiff had the RFC “to perform sedentary work
as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except she can perform only
occasional ramp and stair climbing; no ladder, rope and
scaffold climbing; occasional stooping, kneeling, and
crouching, no climbing [sic]; and she can tolerate no
exposure to unprotected heights and hazards.” R. at 20.
The ALJ found that her disability ended on August 13, 2014,
because there were jobs existing in significant numbers in
the national economy that Plaintiff could perform beginning
on that date. R. at 21-22.
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, Plaintiff filed on August 29, 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.
Determinations and Burden of Proof
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).
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).
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).
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 ...