Jordan v. Saul
LETTER OPINION. Signed by Magistrate Judge Timothy J. Sullivan on 1/11/2022. (mg3s, Deputy Clerk)
Case 8:21-cv-00241-TJS Document 18 Filed 01/11/22 Page 1 of 3
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF MARYLAND
TIMOTHY J. SULLIVAN
UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
6500 Cherrywood Lane
Greenbelt, Maryland 20770
Telephone: (301) 344-3593
January 11, 2022
LETTER TO COUNSEL:
Carlton J. v. Kilolo Kijakazi, Acting Commissioner of Social Security
Civil No. TJS-21-241
On January 28, 2021, Plaintiff Carlton J. petitioned this Court to review the Social Security
Administration’s final decision to deny his claim for supplemental security income (“SSI”). ECF
No. 1. The parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. ECF Nos. 13 & 14. These
motions have been referred to the undersigned with the parties’ consent pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§ 636 and Local Rule 301.1 Having considered the submissions of the parties, I find that no hearing
is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. This Court must uphold the decision of the agency if it is supported
by substantial evidence and if the agency employed the proper legal standards. 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g), 1383(c)(3); Mascio v. Colvin, 780 F.3d 632, 634 (4th Cir. 2015). Following its review,
this Court may affirm, modify, or reverse the Commissioner, with or without a remand. See 42
U.S.C. § 405(g); Melkonyan v. Sullivan, 501 U.S. 89 (1991). Under that standard, I will grant the
Acting Commissioner’s motion and deny the Plaintiff’s motion. This letter explains my rationale.
Carlton J. protectively filed his application for SSI on June 18, 2018. Tr. 15. He alleged a
disability onset date of April 23, 2018. Id. His application was denied initially and upon
reconsideration. Id. Carlton J. requested an administrative hearing, and a telephonic hearing was
held on November 3, 2020, before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). Tr. 33-66. In a written
decision dated November 23, 2020, the ALJ found that Carlton J. was not disabled under the Social
Security Act. Tr. 12-32. The Appeals Council denied Carlton J.’s request for review, making the
ALJ’s decision the final, reviewable decision of the agency. Tr. 1-6.
The ALJ evaluated Carlton J.’s claim for benefits using the five-step sequential evaluation
process set forth in 20 C.F.R.§ 416.920. At step one, the ALJ found that Carlton J. had not engaged
in substantial gainful activity since May 21, 2018. Tr. 17. At step two, the ALJ found that Carlton
J. suffered from the following severe impairments: vascular insult to the brain, neurocognitive
disorder, left hip osteoarthritis, and diabetes. Id. At step three, the ALJ found Carlton J.’s
impairments, separately and in combination, failed to meet or equal in severity any listed
impairment as set forth in 20 C.F.R., Chapter III, Pt. 404, Subpart P, App. 1 (“Listings”). Tr. 18-20.
The ALJ determined that Carlton J. retained the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to:
This case was originally assigned to Judge Boardman. On June 30, 2021, it was reassigned
to Judge Coulson. On December 31, 2021, it was reassigned to me.
Case 8:21-cv-00241-TJS Document 18 Filed 01/11/22 Page 2 of 3
perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except the claimant could lift,
carry, push and pull 20lbs occasionally and 10lbs frequently, sit for 6 hours in an 8
hour workday day [sic], stand and walk for 6 hours in an 8 hour workday[,] can
only frequently: climb ramps and stairs; balance; stoop; kneel; crouch; and crawl;
and can never climb ropes, ladders, or scaffolds. The claimant can only occasionally
be exposed to moving mechanical parts and unprotected heights. The claimant is
limited to simple, routine tasks, and can only occasionally adjust to changes in
workplace settings. The claimant is limited to applying commonsense
understanding to carry out uninvolved written or oral instructions. The claimant is
limited to dealing with problems involving a few concrete variables in or from
At step four, the ALJ determined that Carlton J. was unable to perform past relevant work.
Tr. 26. At step five, relying on testimony provided by a vocational expert (“VE”), and considering
the claimant’s age, education, work experience, and RFC, the ALJ determined that there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Carlton J. can perform, including
checker, router, and routing clerk. Tr. 26-28. Accordingly, the ALJ found that Carlton J. was not
disabled under the Social Security Act. Tr. 28.
Carlton J. argues that the ALJ’s RFC determination does not account for his moderate
limitation in concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace, and therefore runs afoul of the Fourth
Circuit’s decision in Mascio, 780 F.3d 632. In Mascio, the Fourth Circuit held that “an ALJ does
not account ‘for a claimant's limitations in concentration, persistence, and pace by restricting the
[claimant] to simple, routine tasks or unskilled work.’” 780 F.3d at 638 (quoting Winschel v.
Comm’r of Soc. Sec., 631 F.3d 1176, 1180 (11th Cir. 2011)). This is because “the ability to perform
simple tasks differs from the ability to stay on task.” Id. When an ALJ finds that a claimant has
limitations in concentration, persistence, or pace, the ALJ is required to incorporate these
limitations into the claimant’s RFC or explain why they do not “translate into [such] a limitation.”
Id. The Fourth Circuit, however, “did not impose a categorical rule that requires an ALJ to always
include moderate limitations in concentration, persistence, or pace as a specific limitation in the
RFC.” Shinaberry v. Saul, 952 F.3d 113, 121 (4th Cir. 2020). Rather, when “medical evidence
demonstrates that a claimant can engage in simple, routine tasks or unskilled work despite
limitations in concentration, persistence, and pace, courts have concluded that limiting the
hypothetical to include only unskilled work sufficiently accounts for such limitations.” Id. (quoting
Winschel, 631 F.3d at 1180).
As part of the step three analysis, the ALJ found that Carlton J. has a moderate limitation
in his ability to concentrate, persist, or maintain pace. Tr. 19. In making this finding, the ALJ noted
that Carlton J. “has no history of interpersonal difficulties. [He] can focus and concentrate to drive
a car on public roadways.” Id. “[He] is independent in doing typical tasks such as household
chores, laundry, and shopping. The capacity of financial management is intact.” Id. The ALJ found
that the record showed no more than “moderate limitations in the ability to initiate and perform
known tasks, work at an appropriate and consistent pace, complete tasks, ignore or avoid
distractions, change activities or work settings, work close to others without interrupting or
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distracting them, sustain routine and attendance, and work a full day.” Id. The ALJ also discussed
Carlton J.’s ability to concentrate, persist, or maintain pace later in his decision. Tr. 25. The ALJ
found “somewhat persuasive” the March 2019 opinion of the consultative examiner who opined
that Carlton J. had the ability to perform some work-related mental activities; understand and
remember simple, one-step instructions; sustain attention for extended periods of two-hour
segments for simple tasks; tolerate coworkers and supervisors with occasional contact with the
public; and, with infrequent changes, simple, routine tasks with no fast-pace production and no
stringent quotas. Id. The ALJ also found persuasive the opinions of the state consultative
psychological examiners who opined that, despite Carlton J.’s moderate limitation in
concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace, he would be able to carry out simple tasks and
perform simple, routine work. Tr. 25, 77, 95, 111. “To the extent these opinions find [Carlton J.]
may experience intrusion from cognitive limitations, those limitations are balanced as reflected in
the examinations, by limiting [him] to simple tasks.” Tr. 25.
In this case, unlike Mascio, the ALJ adequately explained how Carlton J.’s moderate
limitation in concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace was accommodated in the RFC. The
ALJ limited Carlton J. to, among other limitations, “simple, routine tasks.” Tr. 20. The ALJ
explained that the limitation to simple tasks accounted for Carlton J.’s moderate limitation in
concentrating, persisting, or maintaining pace in light of the opinions of the consultative examiner
and the state consultative psychological examiners. Tr. 25. The Court finds that the ALJ’s RFC
determination and related findings are supported by substantial evidence and comply with the
dictates of Mascio. See Shinaberry, 952 F.3d at 121 (holding that ALJ’s finding that limited
claimant with moderate limitations in concentration, persistence, and pace to performing “simple,
routine, and repetitive tasks” accounted for claimant’s mental limitations where ALJ “discussed in
detail the psychological evaluations performed by the SSA psychological consultants” and other
evidence); Sizemore v. Berryhill, 878 F.3d 72, 80-81 (4th Cir. 2017) (rejecting argument that
remand was required under Mascio because ALJ failed to specifically account for claimant’s
moderate difficulties with regard to concentration, persistence and pace, because more detailed
medical findings provided substantial support for RFC limitations). Because the ALJ’s decision
complies with the holding in Mascio, Carlton J.’s argument is without merit.
For the reasons set forth herein, Carlton J.’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 13)
will be DENIED, and the Acting Commissioner’s Motion for Summary Judgment (ECF No. 14)
will be GRANTED. The Clerk is directed to CLOSE this case. Despite the informal nature of this
letter, it should be flagged as an opinion. An implementing Order follows.
Timothy J. Sullivan
United States Magistrate Judge
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