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James P. v. Saul

United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division

July 25, 2019

JAMES P., JR., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.[1]

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          Thomas M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge.

         Plaintiff James P., Jr., 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 his application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act. Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 15).[2] Plaintiff contends that the administrative record does not contain substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision that he is not disabled. No. hearing is necessary. L.R. 105.6. For the reasons that follow, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 15) is GRANTED, Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14) is DENIED, and the Commissioner's final decision is AFFIRMED.

         I

         Background

         On March 13, 2017, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Susan G. Smith held a hearing where Plaintiff and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. R. at 39-73. The ALJ thereafter found on June 26, 2017, that Plaintiff was not disabled from the alleged onset date of disability of November 1, 2009, through December 31, 2014, the date last insured. R. at 7-28. In so finding, the ALJ found that, through the date last insured, Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)

to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) except [he] could stand and walk 4 hours. He could occasionally climb stairs and ramps, stoop, kneel, and balance; frequently reach overhead bilaterally; and never crouch, crawl, or climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He had to avoid concentrated exposure to hazards, including uneven terrain, unprotected heights, and dangerous moving machinery. [Plaintiff] also required a sit/stand option, where he could sit or stand up to 30 minutes at a time, before changing positions, but could remain at the workstation.

R. at 14.[3] The ALJ determined that, although Plaintiff could not perform his past relevant work as a plumber apprentice, he was capable through the date last insured of performing other work, such as a ticket taker, retail sales attendant, or information clerk. R. at 19-20. Plaintiff thus was not disabled from November 1, 2009, through December 31, 2014, the date last insured. R. at 20-21.

         After the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, Plaintiff filed on May 2, 2018, 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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