United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
Charles B. Day United States Magistrate Judge
before the Court is Defendant's Motion to Alter or Amend
Judgment (“Defendant's Motion”) (ECF No. 22).
The Court has reviewed the related memoranda, and the
applicable law. No. hearing is deemed necessary. Local Rule.
105.6 (D. Md.). For the reasons set forth below, the Court
DENIES Defendant's Motion.
seeks relief pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 59(e) to correct
“clear errors of law in the Court's June 27, 2019
order.” Def.'s Mem. in Support, 1-2. The Court does
not agree with Defendant's notion of error, A.
The Requirements of the “Special Technique” Were
contends that the ALJ fully complied with the regulations and
associated case law in his application of the “special
technique” for evaluating mental impairments. The Court
The regulations require documentation and support for the
ALJ's decision, including but not limited to the
significant history, including examination and laboratory
findings, and the functional limitations that were considered
in reaching a conclusion about the severity of the mental
impairment(s). The decision must include a specific finding
as to the degree of limitation in each of the functional
areas described [elsewhere in the regulation].
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520a(e)(4).
argued, and the Court agreed, that more explanation is
required to satisfy the regulations. Here is the full extent
of the ALJ's justification.
[Plaintiff] has moderate limitations. [Plaintiff] contended
that she has limitations in concentrating generally and
focusing generally. On the other hand, [Plaintiff] said that
she is able to prepare meals, read, manage funds, handle her
own medical care, and attend church. Additionally, the record
fails to show any mention of distractibility or inability to
complete testing that assesses concentration and attention.
R. 19. As stated in the Court's original Memorandum
Opinion, (ECF 20), this language has been rejected by this
Court. See Brocato v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin.,
Civ. No. SAG-16-2540, 2017 WL 3084382 (D. Md. July 19, 2017).
The similarity between Brocato and the present case
is remarkable. The Court in Brocato set forth the
entirety of the ALJ's comments that were under review,
Consultative examiner Dr. Cascella indicated that [Ms.
Brocato] was able to understand and follow simple
instructions, and she scored 26 of 30 on a mini mental status
examination. She complained of trouble concentrating, but the
record does not demonstrate objective signs of concentration
or memory problems. She testified that she cannot do two
things at once but can do one thing at a time.
Brocato, at *3. The Court in Brocato
described the ALJ's analysis as “cursory.”
Here, facing very similar abbreviated factual support, the
Court used the term “brief, ” a term that is
arguably less condemning but at a minimum equates to the
“cursory” label used by this Court previously.
Brocato stated that the “finding of
‘moderate difficulties' was based exclusively on
Ms. Brocato's reported issues in concentration, since the
remaining sentences in the analysis would suggest mild or no
limitations.” Id. There is even less evidence
in the present case to support a finding a “moderate
difficulties” if the Court excludes Plaintiff's
self-reported issues. There is no objective evidence in the
record to support the ALJ's finding.
stated in Brocato, the Court here concludes that
without further explanation it is impossible to determine
whether the ALJ truly believed Plaintiff to have moderate
difficulties, instead of mild or no difficulties, and
“how those difficulties restrict her RFC.”
Id. Such an explanation is required to satisfy the
standard set forth by the Fourth Circuit in Mascio v.
Colvin, 780 F.3d 632 (4th Cir. 2015).
as in Miles v. Comm'r, Soc. Sec. Admin., Civ.
No. SAG-16-1397, 2016 WL 6901985 (D. Md. Nov. 23, 2016),
“it appears that the ALJ largely discredits”
Plaintiff's “reports of difficulty with attention
and concentration.” Id. at *2. Here, the ALJ
merely states that the record “fails to show any
mention of distractibility or inability to complete testing
that assesses concentration and attention.” R. 19.
Arguing from silence is of no help. More explanation is
required for this Court to assess the compliance with the