United States District Court, D. Maryland
MEMORANDUM OPINION GRANTING PLAINTIFF’S
ALTERNATIVE MOTION FOR REMAND
M. DIGIROLAMO UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
Tammy D. 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 application for
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title
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. 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, Plaintiff’s alternative motion for
remand (ECF No. 12) is GRANTED.
filed an application for SSI on April 18, 2011, alleging
disability beginning on July 15, 2009. R. at 754. The
Commissioner denied Plaintiff’s application initially
and again on reconsideration, so Plaintiff requested a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”). R. at 754. ALJ Marc Mates held a hearing
on April 22, 2014 (R. at 27-49, 754), where Plaintiff and a
vocational expert testified, and issued an unfavorable
decision on June 5, 2014 (R. at 754, 815-31). On August 13,
2015, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff’s request
for review. R. at 754, 832-35. Plaintiff sought judicial
review in this Court (R. at 836-47), which reversed the
unfavorable decision and remanded the case on December 21,
2016 (R. at 848-57). The Appeals Council vacated the
ALJ’s decision and remanded the case on March 10, 2017.
R. at 859.
October 13, 2017, ALJ Jack Penca held a supplemental hearing
where Plaintiff and another VE testified. R. at 770-814. On
December 20, 2017, ALJ Penca issued a decision finding
Plaintiff not disabled since the application date of April
18, 2011. R. at 751-69. On February 21, 2018, Plaintiff filed
exceptions to the decision with the Appeals Council (R. at
749-50), which she withdrew on April 19, 2018 (R. at 742).
Because the Appeals Council did not assume jurisdiction of
the case, the ALJ’s decision because the
Commissioner’s final decision after remand.
See 20 C.F.R. § 416.1484(d).
April 16, 2018, Plaintiff filed 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
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), 416.945(a)(3). The Commissioner
also will consider certain non-medical evidence and other
evidence listed in the regulations. See Id . If a
claimant retains the RFC to perform past relevant work, then
the claimant is not disabled. Id. §§
if the claimant’s RFC as determined in step four will
not allow the claimant to perform past relevant work, then
the burden shifts to the Commissioner to prove that there is
other work that the claimant can do, given the
claimant’s RFC as determined at step four, age,
education, and work experience. See Hancock v.
Astrue, 667 F.3d 470, 472-73 (4th Cir. 2012). The
Commissioner must prove not only that the claimant’s
RFC will allow the claimant to make an adjustment to other
work, but also that the other work exists in significant
numbers in the national economy. See Walls, 296 F.3d
at 290; 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v),
416.920(a)(4)(v). If the claimant can make an adjustment to
other work that exists in significant numbers in the national
economy, then the Commissioner will find ...