United States District Court, D. Maryland
Commissioner, Social Security Administration;
31, 2018, Plaintiff petitioned this Court to review the
Social Security Administration's
(“SSA's”) final decision to deny his claim
for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”). ECF 1.
I have considered the parties' cross-motions for summary
judgment, and Plaintiff's reply. ECF 17, 22, 23. 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.
filed his claim on September 4, 2015, alleging a disability
onset date of April 1, 2013. Tr. 161-67. His claim was denied
initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 92-95, 97-98. A hearing
was held on March 28, 2017, before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”). Tr. 30-61. Following the hearing,
the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled within the
meaning of the Social Security Act during the relevant time
frame. Tr. 12-29. The Appeals Council (“AC”)
denied Plaintiff's request for review, Tr. 1-6, so the
ALJ's decision constitutes the final, reviewable decision
of the SSA.
a hearing largely focused on Plaintiff's visual
impairments, the ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the
severe impairments of “diabetes mellitus type 2,
diabetic retinopathy, and diabetic macular edema.” Tr.
18. Despite these impairments, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform light work as defined in 20
C.F.R. § 404.1567(b), but could occasionally lift and/or
carry up to 20 pounds; frequently lift and/or carry up to 10
pounds; walk and/or stand for 6 hours of an 8-hour workday;
sit for 6 hours of an 8-hour workday; push and/or pull with
bilateral upper and lower extremities, but would be subject
to postural limitations including never climbing ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds; and occasionally climbing ramps or
stairs and balancing, stooping, crouching, kneeling, or
crawling; visual limitations to only occasional use of far
acuity; and environmental limitations including avoiding all
exposure to hazards and concentrated exposure to wetness. Tr.
21. After considering the testimony of a vocational expert
(“VE”), the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could
perform his past relevant work as a production planner. Tr.
24-25. Therefore, the ALJ concluded that he was not disabled.
appeal, Plaintiff argues that the ALJ erred by failing to
consider whether Plaintiff met or medically equaled the
requirements of Listing 8.04 (chronic infections of the skin
or mucous membranes). For the reasons described below, the
ALJ did not err, and even if error were deemed to have
occurred, it does not warrant remand.
three, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff's impairments
did not meet or medically equal the severity of any of the
listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix
1. Tr. 19-21. The ALJ's decision noted that there is no
specific listed impairment for diabetes mellitus, but that
Listing 9.00B5 and Social Security Ruling 14-2p provide
guidance for evaluating diabetes under the listings. Tr. 19.
Those sources note that one set of listings to be considered
for a claimant with diabetes is the “skin disorders
listings (8.00), ” when a claimant presents with
evidence of “Slow-healing bacterial and fungal
infections.” SSR 14-2p, 2014 WL 2472008, at *6 (S.S.A.
June 2, 2014). Specifically, Listing 8.04 requires evidence
of “[c]hronic infections of the skin or mucous
membranes, with extensive fungating or extensive ulcerating
skin lesions that persist for at least 3 months despite
continuing treatment as prescribed.” 20 C.F.R. Pt. 404,
Subpt. P, App. 1 § 8.04. Section 8.00C1 provides a
definition of “extensive skin lesions” as
skin lesions are those that involve multiple body sites or
critical body areas, and result in a very serious limitation.
Examples of extensive skin lesions that result in a very
serious limitation include but are not limited to:
a. Skin lesions that interfere with the motion of your joints
and that very seriously limit your use of more than one
extremity; that is, two upper extremities, two lower
extremities, or one upper and one lower extremity.
b. Skin lesions on the palms of both hands that very
seriously limit your ability to do fine and gross motor
c. Skin lesions on the soles of both feet, the perineum, or
both inguinal areas that very seriously limit your ability to
Id. § 8.00(C)(1).
file in this case reflects that Plaintiff was treated for one
skin ulcer that persisted for at least three months despite
continuing treatment: a lateral left foot ulcer lasting from
March 15, 2013 through July 26, 2013. His treatment included
surgical debridement of the nonviable tissue, a forefoot
offloading shoe and ankle ring, medications to fight
infection and bacteria, weekly Oasis applications, and
limited ambulation. Tr. 478, 474, 475, 470, 473, 467, 465,
462, 455, 458, 442. After that 2013 ulcer healed, Plaintiff
did not seek further treatment for ulcers until 2015, and had
no other ulcers lasting longer than one month in duration.
Tr. 303-21; 431-34.
must identify a relevant listing and compare each of the
criteria to the evidence of the claimant's symptoms when
there is “ample evidence in the record to support a
determination” that the claimant's impairments meet
or equal the listing. Cook v. Heckler, 783 F.2d
1168, 1172-73 (4th Cir. 1986). Remand is not warranted
“in those circumstances where it is clear from the
record which listing or listings . . . were considered,
” and the court can still “readily  determine
whether there was substantial evidence to support the
ALJ's Step Three conclusion.” Schoofield v.
Barnhart, 220 F.Supp.2d 512, 522 (D. Md. 2002).
Plaintiff's case, the ALJ discussed Plaintiff's
history of care for his left foot in the step two analysis.
Tr. 18-19. However, at step three, the ALJ did not expressly
evaluate Listing 8.04, and the record suggests that the ALJ
may have had a misimpression about the requirements of that
listing. At the hearing, the ALJ told Plaintiff that the foot
ulcer would have to render him “for one year not able
to work” to qualify him for disability. Tr. 51-52.
Plaintiff correctly notes that Listing 8.04 expressly limits
the relevant duration requirement to more than three months
for “extensive skin lesions.” ECF 17-1 at 16-17.
However, despite the apparent misimpression regarding
duration, the ALJ had no duty to identify and evaluate
Listing 8.04, because there is not ample evidence in the
record to support a determination that Plaintiff's
impairments meet or equal that listing. On its face, Listing
8.04 is written in the plural, and requires a claimant to
have more than one lesion persisting more than three months.
The plural words “infections” and “lesions,
” in addition to the word “extensive, ” in
Listing 8.04, along with the definition of “extensive
skin lesions” at § 8.00C1, all require more than a
single lesion. Although Plaintiff correctly notes that §
8.00C1 provides an inexhaustive list of examples of
“extensive skin lesions, ” each of the examples
requires more than one lesion. In the absence, then, of ample