United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S
ALTERNATIVE MOTION FOR REMAND
M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge.
Terrell Suzette C. 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 her 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),
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 13), and
Plaintiff's “Reply Brief in Support of Motion for
Summary Judgment” (ECF No. 14). Plaintiff contends that the
administrative record does not contain substantial evidence
to support the Commissioner's decision that she 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.
6, 2017, Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Stewart
Goldstein held a hearing where Plaintiff and a vocational
expert (“VE”) testified. R. at 36-78. The ALJ
thereafter found on July 21, 2017, that Plaintiff was not
disabled from her alleged onset date of disability of January
22, 2014, through the date of the ALJ's decision. R. at
12-34. In so finding, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had
moderate limitation in concentrating, persisting, or
maintaining pace. R. at 20. “[T]he record does not
establish a neurocognitive impairment. The moderate
limitation with regard to concentrating, persisting, or
maintaining pace takes into consideration the combined effect
of [Plaintiff's] pain secondary to her medically
determinable physical impairments on her overall level of
functioning.” R. at 20.
then found that Plaintiff had the residual functional
to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and
416.967(b) except [Plaintiff] cannot climb ladders, ropes, or
scaffolds. [Plaintiff] can only occasionally climb ramps and
stairs and occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. Her
ability to remember and understand detailed instructions, to
maintain concentration and attention for extended periods, to
perform duties with consistent pace and persistence, and to
adapt to change in the work setting are impaired by her
depression that affects her energy and motivation. Thus, she
is limited to performing simple, routine tasks where she does
not have to work at a production rate pace, as you would
typically find on an assembly line or in piecework, and she
would need a break of about fifteen minutes approximately
every two hours. Due to her problems with persistence and
pace, she would only be able to function at between 90 and
95% of the efficiency of an unimpaired worker.
R. at 21. In light of this RFC and the VE's
testimony, the ALJ found that, although she could not perform
her past relevant work as an information clerk, Plaintiff
could perform other work, such as an officer helper, clerical
checker, or inspector. R at 27-28. The ALJ thus found that
Plaintiff was not disabled from January 22, 2014, through
July 21, 2017. R. at 29.
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, Plaintiff filed on June 26, 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.
Determinations and Burden of Proof
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).
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).
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).
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 (4th
Cir. 1995); see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c),
404.1521(a), 416.920(c), 416.921(a).
if the claimant has a severe impairment, then the
Commissioner will consider the medical severity of the
impairment. If the impairment meets or equals one of the
presumptively disabling impairments listed in the
regulations, then the claimant is considered disabled,
regardless of age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 404.1520(d),
416.920(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(d); see Radford, 734
F.3d at 293.
if the claimant's impairment is severe, but it does not
meet or equal one of the presumptively disabling impairments,
then the Commissioner will assess the claimant's RFC to
determine the claimant's “ability to meet the
physical, mental, sensory, and other requirements” of
the claimant's past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 404.1545(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4)(iv),
416.945(a)(4). RFC is a measurement of the most a claimant
can do despite his or her limitations. Hines v.
Barnhart, 453 F.3d 559, 562 (4th Cir. 2006);
see 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1545(a)(1),
416.945(a)(1). The claimant is responsible for providing
evidence the Commissioner will use to make a finding as to
the claimant's RFC, but the Commissioner is responsible
for developing the claimant's “complete medical
history, including arranging for a consultative
examination(s) if necessary, and making every reasonable
effort to help [the claimant] get medical reports from [the
claimant's] own medical sources.” 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1545(a)(3), ...