United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF'S
ALTERNATIVE MOTION FOR REMAND
M. DiGirolamo United States Magistrate Judge
Ann B. H. 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 her application for disability insurance benefits
under Title II of the Social Security Act. Before the Court
are Plaintiffs Motion for Summary Judgment and alternative
motion for remand (ECF No. 14) and Defendant's Motion for
Summary Judgment (ECF No. 15). 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, Plaintiffs alternative motion for remand
(ECF No. 14) is GRANTED.
17, 2017, Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") Francine
L. Applewhite held a hearing in Washington, D.C., where
Plaintiff and a vocational expert ("VE") testified.
R. at 27-53. The ALJ thereafter found on September 27, 2017,
that Plaintiff was not disabled from her alleged onset date
of disability of January 22, 2015, through the date of the
ALJ's decision. R. at 7-21. In so finding, the ALJ found
that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity
("RFC") "to perform light work as defined in
20 CFR 404.1567(b) except no climbing of ladders, ropes or
scaffolds; occasional climbing of stairs or ramps; occasional
[stooping], crouching, crawling or kneeling; alternate
between sitting or standing every 30 minutes throughout the
8-hour workday." R. at 13. In light of this RFC and the
VE's testimony, the ALJ found that Plaintiff could
perform her past relevant work as a real estate office
supervisor. R at 16. The ALJ thus found that Plaintiff was
not disabled from January 22, 2015, through September 27,
2017. R. at 17.
the Appeals Council denied Plaintiffs request for review,
Plaintiff filed on September 5, 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, 734F.3d
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), 416.945(a)(3). The ...