Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Helene C. v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration

United States District Court, D. Maryland

December 31, 2019

Helene C.
v.
Commissioner, Social Security Administration

         LETTER TO COUNSEL

          Deborah L. Boardman United States Magistrate Judge

         Dear Counsel:

         On September 21, 2018, Plaintiff Helene C. petitioned this Court to review the Social Security Administration's (“SSA's”) final decision to deny her claims for Disability Insurance Benefits and Supplemental Security Income. ECF 1. I have considered the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment, and Plaintiff's reply. ECF 14, 17, 20. I find that no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2018). This Court must uphold the decision of the SSA if it is supported by substantial evidence and if the SSA employed proper legal standards. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3); Craig v. Chater, 76 F.3d 585, 589 (4th Cir. 1996). Under that standard, I will deny Plaintiff's motion, grant the SSA's motion, and affirm the SSA's judgment pursuant to sentence four of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). This letter explains my rationale.

         Plaintiff filed her claims for benefits on January 4, 2016, alleging a disability onset date of December 13, 2015. Tr. 227-35. Her claims were denied initially and on reconsideration. Tr. 122-29, 135-43. A hearing was held on May 30, 2017, before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Tr. 36-60. Following the hearing, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act during the relevant time frame. Tr. 16-29. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, Tr. 1-6, so the ALJ's decision constitutes the final, reviewable decision of the SSA.

         The ALJ found that Plaintiff suffered from the severe impairments of “lumbar disc disorder with chronic pain syndrome, migraine headaches and obesity.” Tr. 18. Despite these impairments, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to:

perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) with additional limitations. The claimant is able to lift up to 20 pounds at a time, frequently lift or carry objects weighing up to 10 pounds, and stand, walk and sit for approximately six hours each in an eight-hour workday. She can push/pull the same amount as she can lift and carry. The claimant can occasionally operate foot controls with the left lower extremity and frequently reach and handle. The claimant can occasionally climb ramps and stairs and occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch and crawl. She can never climb ladders, ropes or scaffolds. The claimant will need to be able to change positions every 30 minutes from sitting to standing/walking. The claimant will not be off task when changing positions.

Tr. 21. After considering the testimony of a vocational expert (“VE”), the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could perform her past relevant work as a cashier, and, in the alternative, could perform other jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy. Tr. 26-28. Therefore, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. Tr. 28.

         Plaintiff raises two primary arguments on appeal: (1) that the ALJ erred at step three in analyzing whether Plaintiff's impairments met or medically equaled Listing 1.04A; and (2) that the ALJ's RFC determination was unsupported by substantial evidence. Each argument lacks merit for the reasons discussed below.

         Plaintiff's first argument relates to the ALJ's evaluation of Listing 1.04. ECF 14 at 9-23. The ALJ's analysis reads as follows:

Consideration has been given to listing 1.04, however the requirements of this listing have not been satisfied. In making this assessment, the undersigned has also taken note of Acquiescence Ruling 15-1(4) and Walker v. Colvin (Civil Action No. CBD-15-2293). In making this assessment, the undersigned notes that the medical evidence does not establish the requisite evidence of nerve root compression, spinal arachnoiditis or lumbar spinal stenosis as required under listing 1.04.
Specific consideration has been given to listing 1.04(A). The undersigned notes that while the claimant's pain management physicians noted a diagnosis of lumbar radiculopathy, the most recent May 2016 MRI specifically noted that there was no nerve root impingement (Exhibit B9F & B21F). Moreover, even with this diagnosis, listing 1.04 is not met, as there is no 12-month period where the claimant's spinal disorder caused nerve root compression characterized by neuro-anatomic distribution of pain, limitation of motion of the spine, motor loss (atrophy with associated muscle weakness or muscle weakness) accompanied by sensory or reflex loss and, if there is involvement of the lower back, positive straight-leg raising test (sitting and supine). In making this assessment, the undersigned notes that there is no evidence that the claimant experienced motor loss and that physical examination findings from the last year documented no abnormalities upon straight leg raise testing (Exhibits B7F & B21F).

Tr. 21. Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred in three respects in his step three discussion: (1) by relying on Plaintiff's 2016 MRI to conclude that the record did not establish nerve root compression; (2) that the ALJ found the record devoid of evidence of motor loss; and (3) that the ALJ failed to apply Acquiescence Ruling 15-1(4) by limiting his review to the twelve months prior to his decision. ECF 14 at 12-13.

         To satisfy Listing 1.04A, a claimant must show that her disorder of the spine results in a compromise of the nerve ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.