United States District Court, D. Maryland, Southern Division
Charles B. Day United States Magistrate Judge.
P. (“Plaintiff”) brought this action under 42
U.S.C. § 405(g) seeking judicial review of the final
decision of the Commissioner of the Social Security
Administration (“Commissioner”). The
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) approved
Plaintiff's claim for a period of Supplemental Security
Income (“SSI”) beginning December 12, 2017.
However, the ALJ denied Plaintiff's claim for Disability
Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the
Social Security Act (“SSA”) and SSI under Title
XVI of the SSA from March 18, 2012 through December 11, 2017.
Before the Court are Plaintiff's Motion for Summary
Judgment (“Plaintiff's Motion”), ECF No. 16,
and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment
(“Commissioner's Motion”), ECF No. 17. The
Court has reviewed the motions, related memoranda, and the
applicable law. No. hearing is deemed necessary. See
Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md.). For the reasons presented below, the
Court hereby DENIES Plaintiff's Motion,
DENIES Commissioner's Motion, and
REMANDS the ALJ's decision pursuant to
the fourth sentence of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for further
proceedings consistent with this opinion. A separate order
August 28, 2014, Plaintiff filed for DIB and SSI under Titles
II and XVI of the Social Security Act, alleging disability
beginning March 18, 2012. R. 13, 15, 243. Plaintiff alleged
disability due to multiple impairments, including arthritis,
stomach problems, degenerative disc disease, and
Sjogren's syndrome. R. 18, 85. Plaintiff's claims
were initially denied on February 20, 2015, and upon
reconsideration on May 14, 2015. R. 13. An administrative
hearing was held on October 13, 2017. R. 30. On December 19,
2017, Plaintiff's claims for DIB and SSI from March 18,
2012 through December 11, 2017 were denied. R. 21-22;
Pl.'s Mot. 2. Plaintiff sought review by the Appeals
Council, which concluded on July 15, 2018, that there was no
basis for granting the request for review. R. 1-6. Plaintiff
subsequently filed an appeal with this Court. ECF No. 1.
Standard of Review
appeal, the Court has the power to affirm, modify, or reverse
the decision of the ALJ “with or without remanding the
cause for a rehearing.” 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) (2019).
The Court must affirm the ALJ's decision if it is
supported by substantial evidence and the ALJ applied the
correct law. Id. (“The findings of the
Commissioner of Social Security as to any fact, if supported
by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive.”);
see also Russell v. Comm'r of Soc. Sec., 440
Fed.Appx. 163, 164 (4th Cir. 2011) (citing Hays v.
Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990)).
“In other words, if the ALJ has done his or her job
correctly and supported the decision reached with substantial
evidence, this Court cannot overturn the decision, even if it
would have reached a contrary result on the same
evidence.” Schoofield v. Barnhart, 220
F.Supp.2d 512, 515 (D. Md. 2002). Substantial evidence is
“more than a mere scintilla.” Russell,
440 Fed.Appx. at 164. “It means such relevant evidence
as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a
conclusion.” Id. (citing Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971)); see also
Hays, 907 F.2d at 1456 (quoting Laws v.
Celebrezze, 368 F.2d 640, 642 (4th Cir. 1966)) (internal
quotation marks omitted) (“It consists of more than a
mere scintilla of evidence but may be somewhat less than a
preponderance. If there is evidence to justify a refusal to
direct a verdict were the case before a jury, then there is
Court does not review the evidence presented below de
novo, nor does the Court “determine the weight of
the evidence” or “substitute its judgment for
that of the Secretary if his decision is supported by
substantial evidence.” Hays, 907 F.2d at 1456
(citations omitted); see also Blalock v. Richardson,
483 F.2d 773, 775 (4th Cir. 1972) (“[T]he language of
§ [405(g)] precludes a de novo judicial
proceeding and requires that the court uphold the
Secretary's decision even should the court disagree with
such decision as long as it is supported by
‘substantial evidence.'”). The ALJ, not the
Court, has the responsibility to make findings of fact and
resolve evidentiary conflicts. Hays, 907 F.2d at
1456 (citations omitted). If the ALJ's factual finding,
however, “was reached by means of an improper standard
or misapplication of the law, ” then that finding is
not binding on the Court. Coffman v. Bowen, 829 F.2d
514, 517 (4th Cir. 1987) (citations omitted).
Commissioner shall find a person legally disabled under
Titles II and XVI if he is unable “to do any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505(a), 416.905(a)
(2012). The Code of Federal Regulations outlines a five-step
process that the Commissioner must follow to determine if a
claimant meets this definition:
1) Determine whether the plaintiff is “doing
substantial gainful activity.” 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i) (2012). If he is doing
such activity, he is not disabled. If he is not doing such
activity, proceed to step two.
2) Determine whether the plaintiff has a “severe
medically determinable physical or mental impairment that
meets the duration requirement in § [404.1509], or a
combination of impairments that is severe and meets the
duration requirement.” 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii) (2012). If he does not
have such impairment or combination of impairments, he is not
disabled. If he does meet these requirements, proceed to step
3) Determine whether the plaintiff has an impairment that
“meets or equals one of [the C.F.R.'s] listings in
appendix 1 of this subpart and meets the duration
requirement.” 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii) (2012). If he does
have such impairment, he is disabled. If he does not, proceed
to step four.
4) Determine whether the plaintiff retains the
“residual functional capacity”
(“RFC”) to perform “past relevant
work.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv),
416.920(a)(4)(iv) (2012). If he can perform such work, he is
not disabled. If he cannot, proceed to step five.
5) Determine whether the plaintiff can perform other work,
considering his RFC, age, education, and work experience. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v)
(2012). If he can perform other work, he is not disabled. If
he cannot, he is disabled.
20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4) (2012).
Plaintiff has the burden to prove that he is disabled at
steps one through four, and Commissioner has the burden to
prove that Plaintiff is not disabled at step five. H ...