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Soltis v. Colvin

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

January 5, 2015

Elaine F. Soltis, Plaintiff,
v.
Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

ORDER AND MEMORANDUM

LEO I. BRISBOIS, Magistrate Judge.

This matter is before the Court upon Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 13), and Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 16). For the reasons stated in the attached Memorandum, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that:

1. Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 13), is DENIED;

2. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc. No. 16), is GRANTED; and

3. The attached Memorandum is incorporated in this Order by reference.

LET JUDGMENT BE ENTERED ACCORDINGLY

MEMORANDUM

This is an appeal from the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of Plaintiff's application for disability insurance benefits. The Commissioner held a hearing on Plaintiff's application for benefits, which took place before an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ"). At that hearing, a vocational expert testified that someone with Plaintiff's impairments would be able to do the work of a mail clerk, a small products assembler, and an electronics worker. The ALJ relied on the vocational expert's opinion that Plaintiff could do those jobs, and as a result, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff was not disabled. The ALJ's reliance on the vocational expert's opinion presents the sole issue in this appeal.

Pursuant to Local Rule 7.2, the parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. In her motion for summary judgment, Plaintiff contends that the ALJ erred in relying on the vocational expert's testimony. For the reasons discussed below, the Court concludes that the ALJ properly relied on the vocational expert's testimony in denying Plaintiff's application for benefits. Thus, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment, and grants the Commissioner's for summary judgment.

BACKGROUND

I. Procedural History

Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits ("DIB") on April 4, 2011, alleging that she became disabled on January 1, 2004. (Doc. No. 9, Social Security Administrative Record ("AR") 170, 222.) The Commissioner initially denied her applications. (AR 104.) Plaintiff sought reconsideration, and the Commissioner denied her application again. (AR 116.) Plaintiff requested a hearing before an ALJ. (AR 121.) ALJ Mary M. Kunz held a hearing on Plaintiff's DIB application on December 3, 2012. (AR 9, 27.) The ALJ denied Plaintiff's DIB claim in an Unfavorable Decision dated December 17, 2012. (AR 6-24.) Plaintiff filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision with the Appeals Council (AR 5), and the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on January 13, 2014. (AR 1.) Thus, the ALJ's decision became the final decision of the Commissioner for purposes of judicial review. See Grissom v. Barnhart, 416 F.3d 834, 836-37 (8th Cir. 2005).

II. Relevant Medical History

There is no dispute in this case about the nature or extent of Plaintiff's physical impairments. Those impairments include Plaintiff's history of right-shoulder problems. Plaintiff has had multiple shoulder surgeries as a result of right rotator cuff tearing and arthropathy. (AR 305, 308, 340, 391, 396, 748).) Plaintiff also has serious back problems. She has degenerative disc disease affecting her lumbar spine, which required fusion surgery. (AR 382, 390, 436-37, 620.) Plaintiff ...


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