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Connie S. v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

March 22, 2019

CONNIE S., Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.[1]

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S ALTERNATIVE MOTION FOR REMAND

          Thomas M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff Connie S. seeks judicial review under 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3) of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (“Defendant” or the “Commissioner”) denying her application for Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and alternative motion for remand (ECF No. 14) 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 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. 14) is GRANTED.

         I

         Background

         On February 12, 2016, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Michael A. Krasnow held a hearing in Washington, D.C., where Plaintiff and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. R. at 33-60. The ALJ thereafter found on March 9, 2016, that Plaintiff was not disabled since the application date of November 30, 2012. R. at 14-32. In so finding, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)

to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except she can stand and walk a total of four hours in an eight hour day; sit up to six hours; occasionally climb ramps and stairs, but never climb ladders, ropes, ladders [sic], and scaffolds; occasionally balance, stoop, kneel, and crouch, but never crawl. She can frequently handle and finger with the left upper extremity; and must avoid concentrated exposure to wetness and vibration, and moderate exposure to hazards, such as moving machinery and unprotected heights.

R. at 22. In light of this RFC and the VE's testimony, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was capable of performing work in the national economy such as a pre-assembler for printed circuit boards, inspector, or router. R at 26-27. The ALJ thus found that Plaintiff was not disabled since the application date of November 30, 2012. R. at 27.

         After the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, Plaintiff filed on May 18, 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.

         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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