United States District Court, D. Maryland
Commissioner, Social Security Administration;
STEPHANIE A. GALLAGHER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
August 7, 2018, Plaintiff Morsal J. petitioned this Court to
review the Social Security Administration's
(“SSA's”) final decision to deny his claim
for Supplemental Security Income. ECF 1. I have considered
the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment. ECF 16,
17. I find that no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R.
105.6 (D. Md. 2018). This Court must uphold the decision of
the SSA if it is supported by substantial evidence and if the
SSA employed proper legal standards. See 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3); Craig v. Chater, 76
F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996). Under that standard, I will
deny Plaintiff's motion, grant the SSA's motion, and
affirm the SSA's judgment pursuant to sentence four of 42
U.S.C. § 405(g). This letter explains my rationale.
protectively filed his claim for benefits on August 28, 2014,
alleging a disability onset date of June 1, 2014. Tr. 104-32.
His claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr.
51-54, 56-57. A hearing was held on November 29, 2016, before
an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Tr. 349-71.
Following the hearing, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was
not disabled. Tr. 15-24. The Appeals Council denied review,
Tr. 6-9, making the ALJ's opinion the final, reviewable
decision of the SSA.
determined that Plaintiff suffered from the severe
impairments of “bipolar disorder; post-traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD); and persistent depressive disorder
(dysthymia) with anxiety.” Tr. 17. The ALJ determined
that, despite his impairments, Plaintiff retained the
residual functional capacity (“RFC”):
to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but
is limited to understanding, remembering, and carrying out
simple and detailed instructions and performing simple,
routine tasks. He can maintain the required pace and stay on
task in such work with routine, scheduled breaks.
After considering the testimony of a vocational expert
(“VE”), the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could
not perform his past relevant work, but could perform other
jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy.
Tr. 22-24. Accordingly, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was
not disabled. Tr. 24.
appeals the ALJ's decision, and raises one primary
argument on appeal: that the ALJ failed to identify his
physical impairment of Behcet Syndrome as a severe impairment
at step two of the sequential evaluation. ECF 16-1 at 2-9.
The argument lacks merit for the reasons addressed below.
argues that the ALJ failed to identify his Behcet Syndrome as
a severe impairment at step two. An impairment is found
severe at step two if it “significantly limits [a
claimant's] physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities.” See 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(c).
The claimant bears the burden of proving that an impairment
is severe. See Pass v. Chater, 65 F.3d 1200, 1203
(4th Cir. 1995). Here, the ALJ analyzed Plaintiff's
diagnosis as follows:
The claimant devoted a substantial portion of his testimony
to symptoms of fatigue and widespread joint pain, which he
associated to Behcet syndrome. He indicated that these
episodes reoccur once or several times a year, depending on
his mental state. However, he did not present these same
complaints to medical providers during the course of
treatment. The medical record reflects no diagnosis or
treatment modality consistent with this impairment. The only
substantial reference to this impairment has been in the
medical history portion of treatment records and in a United
States Department of State refugee application, where the
claimant cites it as a preexisting impairment, along with
hypertension and nasal septum deviation. In fact, the record
shows that the claimant has denied symptoms of joint pain. As
such, this impairment is non-severe.
Tr. 18 (internal citations omitted).
full review of Plaintiff's medical records, I conclude
that the ALJ's summary is accurate. The record reflects
only one instance where Plaintiff mentioned to his doctors
any physical impairments pertaining to joint pain or other
symptoms related to Behcet Syndrome that might warrant
work-related limitations. Tr. 219 (noting that Plaintiff
claimed he gets “oral ulcers more in summer, joint
paints more in cold month). Although there are repeated
references to Behcet Syndrome as part of Plaintiff's
reported medical history, there are no indicia that any
physicians believed Plaintiff required ongoing treatment for
the condition. Moreover, Plaintiff apparently has had Behcet
Syndrome for many years, including during the time he worked
as a lifeguard, before his employment was terminated for
unrelated reasons. Plaintiff contends that the ALJ should
have imposed Behcet Syndrome-related functional limitations
in the RFC assessment, but has not suggested what type of
limitations the ALJ should have imposed. ECF 16-1 at 8-9.
Ultimately, the ALJ thoroughly explained her consideration of
the evidence, and a review of the medical records does not
indicate any additional RFC limitations that might have been
needed to address Plaintiff's physical symptoms.
Plaintiff's citation to general information regarding
potential symptoms of Behcet disease, ECF 16-1 at 3 n.2, is
unpersuasive in light of a medical record documenting few, if
any, related symptoms or functional limitations. The ALJ
therefore did not err in assessing the severity of
Plaintiff's physical diagnoses.
reasons set forth herein, Plaintiff's motion for summary
judgment, ECF 16, will be DENIED and Defendant's motion
for summary judgment, ECF 17, will be GRANTED. The clerk is
directed to CLOSE this case.
the informal nature of this letter, it should be flagged as