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Timothy H. v. Saul

United States District Court, D. Maryland

September 10, 2019

TIMOTHY H., Plaintiff,
v.
ANDREW M. SAUL, Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.[1]

          MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S ALTERNATIVE MOTION FOR REMAND

          Thomas M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Timothy H. 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 his applications for disability insurance benefits and Supplemental Security Income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act. Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment and alternative motion for remand (ECF No. 12) and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 13).[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, Plaintiff's alternative motion for remand (ECF No. 12) is GRANTED.

         I

         Background

         On February 13, 2017, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Kerith Cohen held a hearing where Plaintiff and a vocational expert (“VE”) testified. R. at 38-66. The ALJ thereafter found on April 5, 2017, that Plaintiff was not disabled from his alleged onset date of disability of February 1, 2014, through the date of the ALJ's decision. R. at 11-31. In so finding, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had moderate limitation in concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace. R. at 18.

[Plaintiff] alleges difficulty concentrating, and some of his mental status exams show that he has poor concentration/attention span. Other mental status exams, however, show that he has fair concentration/attention span and intact cognitive function. [Plaintiff's] activities have also involved concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace. Records indicate that he reads, practices music, does household chores, handles money, and can care for his personal needs without problem.

R. at 18 (citations omitted).

The ALJ then found that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”)
to perform medium work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(c) and 416.967(c) with the following limitations: He can occasionally climb ladders, ropes, and/or scaffolds. He must avoid extreme heat, extreme cold, humidity, fumes, odors, dusts, gases, and poor ventilation. He can understand, remember, and apply information sufficiently to perform simple tasks. He can maintain concentration, [persistence], and pace sufficiently to perform simple, routine, and repetitive tasks. He is able to adapt and manage himself sufficiently to make simple decisions and occasionally exercise independent judgment skills. His work should be performed largely isolated from the general public, working with things rather than people, and involve no tandem tasks or teamwork with coworkers. He can tolerate occasional interaction with supervisors while performing work tasks. R. at 19.[3] In light of this RFC and the VE's testimony, the ALJ found that, although he could not perform his past relevant work as a baker, Plaintiff could perform other work, such as an order picker or office cleaner. R at 26-27. The ALJ thus found that Plaintiff was not disabled from February 1, 2014, through April 5, 2017. R. at 27.

         After the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, Plaintiff filed on June 7, 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 ...


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