United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
Stephen F. Shea, Esq. Elkin & Shea
Jennifer H. Stinnette, Esq. Special Assistant United States
Attorney Social Security Administration
Honorable Gina L. Simms United States Magistrate Judge.
before this Court are cross-motions for summary judgment.
(ECF Nos. 14, 16). The Court must uphold the Social Security
Administration's decision if it is supported by
substantial evidence and if the Agency employed proper legal
standards. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g),
1383(c)(3)(2016); Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589
(4th Cir. 1996). The substantial evidence rule
“consists of more than a mere scintilla of evidence but
may be somewhat less than a preponderance.”
Chater, 76 F.3d at 589. This Court shall not
“re-weigh conflicting evidence, make credibility
determinations, or substitute [its] judgment” for that
of the SSA. (Id.). Upon review of the pleadings and
the record, the Court finds that no hearing is necessary.
Local Rule 105.6. For the reasons set forth above, the court
DENIES Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment, and
GRANTS Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment.
filed an application for supplemental security income on
April 3, 2014, and Title XVI application for Supplemental
Security Income Benefits on October 1, 2014, alleging a
disability onset date of March 12, 1991. (Tr. 15). This claim
was initially denied on January 14, 2015, and upon
reconsideration on June 1, 2015. (Id.).
Plaintiff's request for a hearing was granted and the
hearing was scheduled for March 7, 2017 before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Id.).
Plaintiff did not appear at the hearing, but Edna Madden,
Plaintiff's attorney, appeared on his behalf. (Tr. 35).
Plaintiff failed to present good cause for missing the
hearing. (Tr. 15). On June 28, 2017, the ALJ issued a
decision finding the Plaintiff was not disabled within
meaning of the Social Security Act during the relevant time
frame. (Tr. 12). The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's
request for review on February 23, 2018, making the ALJ's
decision the final reviewable decision of the Agency. (Tr.
ANALYSIS PERFORMED BY THE ADMINISTRATIVE LAW JUDGE
Social Security Act defines disability as the
“inability to engage in any substantial gainful
activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or
mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or
which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous
period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §
423(d)(1)(A). An individual is deemed to have a disability if
their “physical or mental impairment or impairments are
of such severity that he 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 in the
region where such individual lives or in several regions of
the country.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).
determine whether a person has a disability, the ALJ engages
in the five-step sequential evaluation process set forth in
20 C.F.R. §§ 415.1520(a)(4)(i)-(v); 416.920.
See e.g., Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 140-42
(1987); Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632, 634-35 (4th
Cir. 2015). The steps used by the ALJ are as follows: step
one, assesses whether a claimant had engaged in substantial
gainful activity since the alleged disability onset date;
step two, determine whether a claimant's impairments meet
the severity and durations requirements found in the
regulations; step three, ascertain whether a claimant's
medical impairment meets or equals an impairment listed in
the regulations (“the Listings”). If the first
three steps are not conclusive, the ALJ assesses the
claimant's Residual Function Capacity
(“RFC”), i.e., the most the claimant could do
despite their limitations, through consideration of
claimant's “medically determinable impairments of
which [the ALJ is] aware', including those not labeled
severe at step two.” Mascio, 780 F.3d at 635
(quoting 20 C.F.R. § 416.945(a)). At step four, the ALJ
analyzes whether a claimant could perform past work, given
the limitations caused by her impairments; and at step five,
the ALJ analyzes whether a claimant could perform any work.
At steps one through four, it is the claimant's burden to
show that he is disabled. See Monroe v. Colvin, 826
F.3d 176, 179-80 (4th Cir. 2016). If the ALJ's evaluation
moves to step five, the burden then shifts to the SSA to
prove that a claimant has the ability to perform work and
therefore, is not disabled. (Id. at 180).
found that during the relevant time frame, Plaintiff suffered
from the following severe impairments: “residual
effects of T11 and T12 thoracic fractures and surgical
intervention; degenerative disc disease and dissection of the
cervical spine; degenerative changes and scoliosis of
lumbosacral spine; osteoarthrosis/osteoarthritis; and bipolar
disorder/depression.” (Tr. 18). Despite those severe
impairments, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff retained the
perform light work . . . except no more than occasional
balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, crawling, and
climbing of ladders/ropes/scaffolds/ramps/stairs. The
Plaintiff must avoid concentrated exposure to fumes, dusts,
odors, and gases. He is limited to simple, routine,
repetitive tasks. He can tolerate no production rate for pace
of work. (Tr. 19).
After considering testimony from a vocational expert
(“VE”), the ALJ determined that there were jobs
existing in significant numbers in the national economy that
Plaintiff could perform (e.g., pre-assembler for printed
circuit boards, inspector, and assembler). (Tr. 23-25).
Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled.