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Hepding v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Maryland

January 10, 2019

CHRISTOPHER PAUL HEPDING, Plaintiff,
v.
COMMISSIONER, SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION,[1] Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          A. DAVID COPPERTHITE UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Pending before this Court is Plaintiff Christopher Paul Hepding's "Motion to Reconsider" ("Plaintiffs Motion") (ECF No. 22), seeking reconsideration of the Court's Memorandum Opinion dated November 26. 2018. which granted summary judgment in favor of Defendant, the Social Security Administration. ECF No. 22 at 1. Plaintiff asks the Court to reconsider its decision to grant Defendant's summary judgment motion, asserting that the AIJ failed to comply with the decision in Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632 (4th Cir. 2015), and improperly evaluated Plaintiffs impairments during step three of the sequential evaluation. Id. at 2, 12. After consideration of Plaintiffs Motion and the response thereto (ECF No. 23), the Court finds that no hearing is necessary. See Loc.R. 105.6 (D.Md. 2018). For the reasons set forth herein. Plaintiffs Motion is GRANTED IN PART AND DENIED IN PART.

         Procedural History

         On December 14, 2017, Plaintiff petitioned this Court to review the SSA's denial of his disability application. ECF No. 1. On August 7, 2018, Plaintiff filed a Motion for Summary Judgment, in which he raised two allegations of error on appeal: (1) that the ALJ improperly accounted for Plaintiffs moderate difficulties in concentration, persistence, or pace in violation of Mascio; and (2) that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate Plaintiffs spinal impairments during step three of the sequential evaluation. ECF Nos. 17, 17-1. Defendant filed its Motion for Summary Judgment on September 19, 2018, ECF No. 18, and Plaintiff opposed this motion on October 22, 2018, ECF No. 19.[2] Upon reviewing the motions and the response thereto, the Court denied Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment, granted Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment, and affirmed the SSA's decision pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). ECF No. 20 at 16; ECF No. 21.

         Thereafter, Plaintiff filed Plaintiffs Motion on November 28, 2018, ECF No. 22, and Defendant filed its opposition on December 12, 2018, ECF No. 23. This matter is now fully briefed and the Court has reviewed Plaintiffs Motion as well as the response thereto. For the following reasons. Plaintiffs Motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

         Discission

         A. Standard of Review

         Plaintiff cites Local Rule 105.10 as authority for his motion to reconsider. This rule states: "Except as otherwise provided in Fed.R.Civ.P. 50, 52, 59, or 60, any motion to reconsider any order issued by the Court shall be filed with the Clerk not later than fourteen (14) days after entry of the order." Loc.R. 105.10 (D.Md. 2018). "Under [this] rule, similar to the standard for relief under Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e), '[a] motion for reconsideration is appropriate [ 1 ] to "correct manifest errors of law or fact or [2] to present newly discovered evidence," or [3] where there has been an intervening change in controlling law.'" Crocetti v. Comm'r. Soc. Sec. Admin., No. SAG-17-1122, 2018 WL 3973074, at *1 (D.Md. Aug. 1, 2018) (quoting Palter v. Potter. 199F.R.D. 550, 552 n.l (D.Md. 2001)).

         B. Plaintiffs Motion to Reconsider

         In his motion, Plaintiff contends that the Court erred in affirming the SSA's decision because the ALJ improperly accounted for Plaintiffs moderate difficulties in concentration, persistence, or pace contrary to Mascio and improperly evaluated Plaintiffs spinal impairments contrary to Radford v. Colvin, 734 F.3d 288 (4th Cir. 2013). ECF No. 22 at 2, 12. The Court will address each allegation of error below.

         1. T he ALTs RFC Determination Improperly Accounted For Plaintiffs Moderate Difficulties With Concentration, Persistence, Or Pace.

         Plaintiff first contends that this Court's decision did not properly resolve the ALJ's failure to comply with the Mascio decision during step four of the sequential evaluation. Id. at 2-11. Plaintiff maintains that the ALJ did not include a limitation to account for Plaintiffs moderate difficulties by merely stating that Plaintiff "is able to retain and carry out simple instructions," ECF No. 11 at 110. and that the ALJ failed to explain why including a limitation was unnecessary. ECF No. 22 at 10-11. After further consideration and review of the record, the Court agrees.

         At step three of the sequential evaluation, the ALJ must determine whether the claimant's impairments meet or equal one or more of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1. Listings 12.00 et seq. pertain to mental impairments. 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1, 12.00. "Each [L]isting therein, consists of: (1) a brief statement describing its subject disorder; (2)'paragraph A criteria,' which consists of a set of medical findings; and (3) 'paragraph B criteria." which consists of a set of impairment-related functional limitations." Rayman v. Comm V, Soc. Sec. Admin., No. SAG-14-3102, 2015 WL 6870053, at *2 (D.Md. Nov. 6, 2015) (citing 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1, 12.00(A)). If the paragraph A and paragraph B criteria are satisfied, the ALJ will find that the claimant meets the listed impairment. Id.

         Paragraph B provides the functional criteria assessed by the ALJ and consists of four broad functional areas: (1) activities of daily living; (2) social functioning; (3) concentration, persistence, or pace; and (4) episodes of decompensation. 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1. 12.00(A)(2)(b). The ALJ employs a "special technique" to rate the degree of a claimant's functional limitations in these areas. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520a(b), 416.920a(b). The ALJ's evaluation must determine "the extent to which [the claimant's] impairment(s) interferes with [the] ability to function independently, appropriately, effectively, and on a sustained basis" and must include a specific finding as to the degree of limitation in each of the four functional areas. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520a(c), 416.920a(c). The ALJ uses a five-point scale to rate a claimant's degree of limitation in the first three areas: none, mild, moderate, marked, and extreme. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520a(c)(4), 416.920a(c)(4). "To satisfy the ...


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