Yoakum v. Colvin
ORDER denying 13 Mr. Yoakum's Motion for Summary Judgment; granting 14 the Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment; and directing the Clerk to close the case. Signed by Magistrate Judge Stephanie A Gallagher on 6/28/2017. (bmhs, Deputy Clerk)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
STEPHANIE A. GALLAGHER
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
101 WEST LOMBARD STREET
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND 21201
Fax (410) 962-1812
June 28, 2017
LETTER TO COUNSEL
Robert G. Yoakum v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration;
Civil No. SAG-16-2841
On August 11, 2016, Plaintiff Robert G. Yoakum petitioned this court to review the
Social Security Administration’s final decision to deny his claim for Disability Insurance
Benefits. (ECF No. 1). I have considered the parties’ cross-motions for summary judgment.
(ECF Nos. 13, 14). I find that no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6 (D. Md. 2016). This
Court must uphold the decision of the Agency if it is supported by substantial evidence and if the
Agency 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
Commissioner’s motion, and affirm the Commissioner’s judgment pursuant to sentence four of
42 U.S.C. § 405. This letter explains my rationale.
Mr. Yoakum filed a claim for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) on October 5, 2012,
alleging a disability onset date of October 30, 2008. (Tr. 139-42). His claim was denied initially
and on reconsideration. (Tr. 81-84, 86-87). A hearing was held on November 6, 2014, before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 43-65). Following the hearing, the ALJ determined
that Mr. Yoakum was not disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act during the
relevant time frame. (Tr. 22-38). The Appeals Council denied Mr. Yoakum’s request for
review, (Tr. 1-6), so the ALJ’s decision constitutes the final, reviewable decision of the Agency.
The ALJ found that Mr. Yoakum did not suffer from any severe impairment that
significantly limited the ability to perform work through the date last insured. (Tr. 27).
Accordingly, the ALJ concluded that Mr. Yoakum was not disabled.
Mr. Yoakum’s sole argument on appeal is that the ALJ erred by not determining that his
hip disorder constitutes a severe impairment. I disagree. At Step Two, the ALJ must determine
whether the claimant has a severe impairment. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(c). An impairment is
considered “severe” if it significantly limits the claimant’s ability to work. See 20 C.F.R. §
404.1521(a). The claimant bears the burden of proving that his impairment is severe. See
Johnson v. Astrue, 2012 WL 203397, at *2 (D. Md. Jan. 23, 2012) (citing Pass v. Chater, 65
F.3d 1200, 1203 (4th Cir. 1995)). Here, the ALJ thoroughly considered Mr. Yoakum’s hip
disorder at Step Two. (Tr. 28-29). In a detailed analysis, the ALJ noted that Mr. Yoakum’s hip
Robert G. Yoakum v. Commissioner, Social Security Administration
Civil No. SAG-16-2841
June 28, 2017
disorder “was adequately addressed with surgery and rehabilitation.” (Tr. 29). Specifically, the
ALJ noted that “on October 20, 2008, [Mr. Yoakum] underwent surgery for a total right hip
arthroplasty.” 1 Id. The ALJ also noted that Mr. Yoakum “attended physical therapy” following
his surgery, and cited “an imaging study confirm[ing] that his hardware was in good position.”
Id. Additionally, the ALJ cited “treatment notes indicat[ing] that, ‘[Mr. Yoakum] look[ed] good’
and [that] he was able to return to work” only nine weeks after surgery. Id. Moreover, the ALJ
noted Mr. Yoakum’s admission that he experienced only “a little bit of weakness in his hip
flexors and abductors…, a little bit of a limp and a little bit of discomfort, but was still able to
work at full speed.” Id. (internal quotation marks omitted). Furthermore, the ALJ noted that Mr.
Yoakum “demonstrated better strength and almost no Trendelenburg gait” on examination, and
received routine and conservative post-operative treatment prior to his discharge. Id.
Ultimately, the ALJ concluded that “[Mr. Yoakum] progressed well after surgery and returned to
work” in the absence of “any significant symptoms or limitations.” Id.
Importantly, my review of the ALJ’s decision is confined to whether substantial
evidence, in the record as it was reviewed by the ALJ, supported the decision and whether
correct legal standards were applied. Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 390, 404 (1971).
Thus, even if there is other evidence that may support Mr. Yoakum’s position, I am not
permitted to reweigh the evidence or to substitute my own judgment for that of the ALJ. See
Hays v. Sullivan, 907 F.2d 1453, 1456 (4th Cir. 1990). Accordingly, the ALJ fairly concluded
that Mr. Yoakum’s hip disorder had no more than a de minimis effect on his ability to work.
Therefore, remand on this basis is unwarranted.
For the reasons set forth herein, Mr. Yoakum’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No.
13) is DENIED and Defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14) is GRANTED.
The clerk is directed to CLOSE this case.
Despite the informal nature of this letter, it should be flagged as an opinion and docketed
as an order.
Stephanie A. Gallagher
United States Magistrate Judge
Additionally, Mr. Yoakum notes that he “underwent additional surgery in July 2011, to redo his hip replacement
from October 2008.” Pl. Mot. 7. However, because his 2011 surgery occurred two years after his date last insured
of June 30, 2009, (Tr. 25), it is not relevant to the consideration of his application for disability insurance benefits.
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