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Jorgensen v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 13, 2018

BRIANA DALE JORGENSEN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          JENNIFER G. MROZIK, HOGLUND, CHWIALKOWSKI & MROZIK, PLLC FOR PLAINTIFF.

          ANN M. BILDTSEN, ASSISTANT UNITED STATES ATTORNEY, FOR DEFENDANT.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          JOHN R. TUNHEIM CHIEF JUDGE

         Plaintiff Briana Dale Jorgensen brought this action against Defendant Nancy Berryhill, the Acting Commissioner of Social Security (“the Commissioner”), seeking review of the denial of Jorgensen's application for disability insurance benefits. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. United States Magistrate Judge Steven E. Rau issued a Report & Recommendation (“R&R”) that Jorgensen's motion be denied and the Commissioner's granted. Jorgensen objects. After a careful review of the record, the Court will find that the Commissioner's decision conforms to the law and is supported by substantial evidence from the record as a whole as required by 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). As such, the Court will overrule Jorgensen's objections and adopt the R&R.

         BACKGROUND

         The facts of this case are described extensively in the R&R and are therefore summarized here only as relevant to Jorgensen's objections. (See R&R at 1-9, Jan. 26, 2018, Docket No. 35.) In 2012, Jorgensen filed for Social Security disability benefits on the ground that a variety of cognitive issues limit her ability to work. (Admin. R. at 264, 267, Feb. 22, 2017, Docket No. 24.) As relevant here, state agency psychologist Dr. Michael DeSanctis determined that Jorgensen's “difficulties in maintaining concentration, persistence, or pace” were “marked, ” an opinion with which a second state agency psychologist concurred. (Id. at 136, 153.) Ultimately, however, both opined that Jorgensen was not disabled. (Id. at 141, 153.)

         Jorgensen's claim was denied initially and on reconsideration. (Id. at 16.) After a hearing, the claim was denied again by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). (Id. at 30-31.) As relevant here, the ALJ found that Jorgensen has “moderate limitations” in her “ability to maintain concentration, persistence, and pace.” (Id. at 20.) Despite finding “moderate” rather than “marked” limitations, the ALJ found “the State agency psychological consultants opinions generally consistent with the evidence in record and gives their opinions weight to the extent that they support the above described residual functional capacity findings.” (Id. at 29.) The Appeals Council denied review. (Id. at 1.)

         Jorgensen brought this action after exhausting the administrative appeals process within the Social Security Administration. (Compl., Apr. 19, 2016, Docket No. 1.) The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment, and the Magistrate Judge recommended that Jorgensen's motion be denied and the Commissioner's granted. (R&R at 15; Def.'s Mot. for Summ. J., June 22, 2017, Docket No. 33; Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. J., Apr. 24, 2017, Docket No. 27.) Jorgensen objects, arguing that the Commissioner committed legal error by failing to properly evaluate the opinions of the two state agency psychologists, and that the Magistrate Judge erroneously claimed that the ALJ's error was harmless. (Objs. at 1-2, Feb. 9, 2018, Docket No. 37.)

         DISCUSSION

         I. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         After a magistrate judge files an R&R, a party may file “specific written objections to the proposed findings and recommendations.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(2); accord D. Minn. LR 72.2(b)(1). “The objections should specify the portions of the magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which objections are made and provide a basis for those objections.” Mayer v. Walvatne, No. 07-1958, 2008 WL 4527774, at *2 (D. Minn. Sept. 28, 2008). For dispositive motions, the Court reviews de novo a “properly objected to” portion of an R&R. Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b)(3); accord D. Minn. LR 72.2(b)(3). “Objections which are not specific but merely repeat arguments presented to and considered by a magistrate judge are not entitled to de novo review, but rather are reviewed for clear error.” Montgomery v. Compass Airlines, LLC, 98 F.Supp.3d 1012, 1017 (D. Minn. 2015). Because motions for summary judgment are dispositive, the Court will review Jorgensen's objections de novo to the extent that they are specific and do not merely repeat arguments presented to and considered by the Magistrate Judge.

         II. ANALYSIS

         Jorgensen raises two objections to the Magistrate Judge's proposed finding that the ALJ's determination was supported by substantial evidence. First, Jorgensen argues that the Commissioner “failed to properly evaluate the opinions of the state agency psychological consultants as mandated under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1527.” (Objs. at 1.) Second, Jorgensen argues that the R&R erroneously claimed that any legal error was harmless. (Id. at 5-6.)

         A. ...


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