United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Michael F. Kuppich, Plaintiff,
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
C. Olson, Esq., Disability Attorneys of Minnesota, counsel
Gregory G. Brooker, Esq., United States Attorney's
Office, counsel for Defendant.
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. THORSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that
Plaintiff Michael F. Kuppich was disabled starting on January
26, 2010, but was not disabled prior to that date. Pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Plaintiff seeks judicial review
of the final decision of Defendant Commissioner of Social
Security denying his application for disability insurance
benefits during the period from January 13, 2005, to January
26, 2010. This matter is before the Court on the parties'
cross-motions for summary judgment, in accordance with D.
Minn. LR 7.2(c)(1). (Doc. Nos. 15, 17.) For the reasons
stated below, the ALJ's decision is supported by
substantial evidence in the record. Therefore,
Plaintiff's Motion for Summary Judgment is denied and
Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.
applied for Title II disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) on August 10, 2006, alleging a disability
onset date of October 22, 2004. (Tr. 9, 98.) Plaintiff's
application was denied initially and on reconsideration, and
a hearing was held before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) on November 20, 2008. (Tr.
20-35.) The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on
March 9, 2009. (Tr. 9-17.) On appeal, the district court
reversed the Commissioner's denial of benefits and
remanded for further proceedings, pursuant to sentence four
of 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Tr. 542-45.) Pursuant to the
remand, the Social Security Administration Appeals Council
directed the ALJ to further evaluate Plaintiff's
depression and whether his past work as a self-employed
rehabilitation clerk constitutes substantial gainful
activity. (Tr. 553-54.)
conducted a second hearing on December 19, 2011. (Tr.
504-23.) On February 15, 2012, in a partially favorable
decision, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was disabled since
January 27, 2010, but was not disabled prior to that date.
(Tr. 559-71.) Plaintiff appealed on March 18, 2012. (Tr.
678.) More than four years later, on May 31, 2016, the
Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review.
(Tr. 497-500.) This denial made the ALJ's decision the
final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R.
27, 2016, Plaintiff filed this action seeking judicial review
pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Doc. No. 1.) Defendant
filed an answer on November 8, 2016. (Doc. No. 9.) The
parties have filed cross-motions for summary judgment. (Doc.
No. 16, Pl.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. (“Pl.'s
Mem.”); Doc. No. 18, Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ.
J. (“Def.'s Mem.”).) Plaintiff argues that
the ALJ did not offer sufficient reasons for rejecting the
opinion of a consulting psychiatrist, Dr. Alford Karayusuf,
M.D., that Plaintiff is limited to unskilled work. (Pl.'s
Mem. 10-14.) Defendant argues that the ALJ gave an adequate
explanation for discounting Dr. Karayusuf's opinion, and
that the ALJ's denial of benefits is supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole. (Def.'s
Personal and Work Background
1950, Plaintiff is the second youngest of ten siblings (five
brothers and five sisters). (Tr. 103, 738.) Plaintiff was
married, but he divorced in 1990 and has no children. (Tr.
470.) He has a college degree in physical education. (Tr.
23.) He lives with one of his brothers. (Tr. 29.)
about 1990, Plaintiff has worked as a rehabilitation clerk,
helping injured workers find suitable work. (Tr. 17, 27-28.)
Plaintiff used to perform this job on a fulltime basis. (Tr.
27-28.) At his first disability hearing, Plaintiff testified
that he could only work twenty hours per week. (Tr. 28.) At
the second hearing, Plaintiff testified that he was down to
working only ten hours a week and he works from home. (Tr.
The ALJ's Findings and Decision
February 15, 2012, following Plaintiff's second
disability hearing, the ALJ issued a partially favorable
decision, finding that Plaintiff was disabled beginning
January 27, 2010, but not disabled prior to that date. (Tr.
559-71.) The ALJ followed the five-step evaluation process
dictated by 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4), which involves
the following determinations: (1) whether Plaintiff is
involved in “substantial gainful activity”; (2)
whether Plaintiff has a severe impairment that significantly
limits his mental or physical ability to work; (3) whether
Plaintiff's impairments meet or equal a presumptively
disabling impairment listed in the regulations; (4) whether
Plaintiff has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform his past work; and (5) if
Plaintiff cannot perform his past work, whether the
government has shown that Plaintiff can perform other work,
and that there is a sufficient number of those jobs available
in the national economy. (Tr. 560-61.)
one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date.
(Tr. 561.) The ALJ recognized that Plaintiff worked after his
alleged onset date, but found that his earnings were below
the level required to be considered substantial gainful
activity in those years. (Id.)
determined at step two that Plaintiff has the following
severe impairments: diabetes mellitus with peripheral
neuropathy; degenerative disc disease; right eye infection
with decreased vision in the right eye; major ...