United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Peter W. Carter, Esq., Monica C. Fahnhorst, Esq. and Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Minneapolis, MN, counsel for plaintiff.
Ann M. Bildtsen, Assistant U.S. Attorney, Minneapolis, MN, counsel for defendant
DAVID S. DOTY, District Judge.
This matter is before the court upon the objection by plaintiff Richard Donald Miller to the December 10, 2013, report and recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Jeffrey J. Keyes. In his report, the magistrate judge recommends that the court deny the motion for summary judgment by Miller and grant the motion for summary judgment by defendant Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner). After a de novo review, and for the following reasons, the court overrules the objection and adopts the report and recommendation in its entirety.
The background of the action is fully set forth in the report and recommendation, and the court briefly summarizes the history of the present action. Miller seeks judicial review of the decision to deny his application for Social Security disability and supplemental security income. The Commissioner denied the applications initially and again upon reconsideration. Miller then requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ).
On June 23, 2009, the ALJ affirmed the denial of Miller's applications. The Appeals Council denied a request for review, making the ALJ's determination the final decision of the Commissioner. Miller sought judicial review, and on March 22, 2011, Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur J. Boylan remanded the matter for additional findings. On August 8, 2011, the ALJ held a second administrative hearing. The ALJ heard testimony from Miller, medical expert Dr. Karen Butler and vocational expert J. Harren. On October 31, 2011, the ALJ again affirmed the denial of Miller's applications. The Appeals Council again denied a request for review, making the ALJ's determination the final decision of the Commissioner.
On October 4, 2012, Miller filed this action, seeking judicial review of the decision denying benefits. Both parties moved for summary judgment. On December 10, 2013, Magistrate Judge Keyes recommended granting the Commissioner's motion. Miller objects.
I. Standard of Review
The court reviews the report and recommendation of the magistrate judge de novo, and the findings and decisions of the ALJ for substantial evidence on the record as a whole. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C); Haley v. Massanari , 258 F.3d 742, 747 (8th Cir. 2001). "Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind would find it adequate to support the [ALJ's] conclusion." Byes v. Astrue , 687 F.3d 913, 915 (8th Cir. 2012) (citation omitted). On review, the court considers "both evidence that detracts from and evidence that supports the Commissioner's decision." Hartfield v. Barnhart , 384 F.3d 986, 988 (8th Cir. 2004) (citation omitted). The court, however, may not "reverse the Commissioner's decision simply because there is evidence supporting a different result." Hall v. Chater , 109 F.3d 1255, 1258 (8th Cir. 1997) (citation omitted). Moreover, a court may not substitute its judgment for that of the ALJ. Fastner v. Barnhart , 324 F.3d 981, 983 (8th Cir. 2003). Rather, the court will disturb the ALJ's decision to deny benefits only if "the record contains insufficient evidence to support the outcome." Nicola v. Astrue , 480 F.3d 885, 886-87 (8th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted).
II. Disability Determination
The Commissioner employs a five-step sequential analysis in making a disability determination. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). The ALJ must consider (1) whether the claimant has engaged in substantial gainful activity during the alleged disability period, (2) the medical severity of the impairments, (3) whether the impairments meet or medically equal the criteria of any enumerated impairments, (4) the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC) and past relevant work and (5) whether the impairments and other relevant circumstances preclude the claimant from engaging in other work. Id .; see Goff v. Barnhart , 421 F.3d 785, 790 (8th Cir. 2005).
At step one, the ALJ found that Miller had not engaged in substantial gainful activity during the alleged disability period. R. 385. The ALJ then determined that Miller's impairments included (1) diabetes mellitus, (2) bursitis of the heel, (3) attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), (4) anxiety disorder not otherwise specified, (5) bipolar disorder versus severe major depression and (6) personality disorder not otherwise specified. Id. at 385-86. At step three, the ALJ determined that those impairments did not meet or medically equal the ...