United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Laura L. Ledama, Plaintiff,
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Defendant.
B. Nelson, Nelson Law Office, Thomas A. Krause, Schott, Mauss
& Associates, PLLC, counsel for Ms. Ledama
Marentette, United States Attorney's Office, counsel for
Katherine Menendez United States Magistrate Judge
Laura Lee Ledama appeals the denial of her application for
Social Security disability benefits, Compl. ECF No. 1, and
the parties have filed cross motions for summary judgment.
Pl.'s Mot., ECF No. 17; Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 20. Ms.
Ledama asks the Court to reverse the Commissioner's
decision and remand the matter “for the calculation and
payment of benefits, ” or alternatively for further
proceedings. Pl.'s Mem. at 21, ECF No. 18. The
Commissioner asks that the Court affirm the
Commissioner's decision as legally sound and supported by
substantial evidence. Def.'s Mem. at 16, ECF No. 21. For
the reasons that follow, Ms. Ledama's motion is denied,
the Commissioner's motion is granted, and the
Commissioner's decision is affirmed.
March 11, 2013, Ms. Ledama filed the application at issue in
this matter. Pl.'s Mem. at 2. She applied for disability
insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the
Social Security Act and for supplemental security income
(“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act, alleging
disability with an onset date of June 9, 2012. Id.
Ms. Ledama is forty-four years old, and suffers from migraine
headaches, chronic neck pain, ongoing degenerative disc
disease of the cervical and lumbar spine, and “chronic
pain syndrome versus fibromyalgia.” Admin. R.
(“AR”) at 23, ECF No. 12. Ms. Ledama worked as an
administrative assistant from 2004 through 2011, and has also
worked as a personal care assistant and a childcare provider.
Id. at 281. In 2011, she took long-term disability,
which ended in June 2012 when the insurance company
determined she was no longer disabled. Id. at 77-78.
Ms. Ledama previously applied for disability insurance
benefits in 2010 alleging disability starting in 2009, but
her application was denied initially, on reconsideration,
after hearing by an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”), and on appeal to the appeals council.
Id. at 92, 111.
Ledama's March 2013 application-the one at issue here-was
denied initially in August 2013 and on reconsideration in
January 2014. Id. at 117-138, 141-168. Ms. Ledama
requested a hearing in the matter, and an ALJ conducted such
a hearing in February 2015. Id. at 187-88, 72-87. At
the hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from Ms. Ledama and from
an impartial vocational expert. Id. at 72-87. The
ALJ affirmed the denial of benefits in a detailed decision
issued later that month. Id. at 24-44.
decision, the ALJ followed the well-known sequential process
for considering claims for DIB and SSI. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a), 416.920 (a). The ALJ found that:
(1) Ms. Ledama had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since June 9, 2012;
(2) Ms. Ledama has severe physical impairments that would
affect her ability to work;
(3) Ms. Ledama's impairments do not meet or medically
equal the “listings” set forth in 20 C.F.R. Pt.
404, Subpt. P, App. 1;
(4) Ms. Ledama's impairments necessitate some limitations
on her work, but Ms. Ledama has the residual functional
capacity (“RFC”) to perform light work; and
(5) With the prescribed limitations, Ms. Ledama would still
be capable of performing her past work as an administrative
assistant or childcare worker.
See AR at 29-42. The ALJ's decision became the
final decision of the Commissioner after the appeals council
denied Ms. Ledama's request for review in May 2016.
Id. at 10-14. She filed the complaint in the instant
matter the following September, and the matter is now before
the Court for judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). See Compl.
Court reviews the Commissioner's final decision pursuant
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), and the Commissioner's
findings “as to any fact, if supported by substantial
evidence, shall be conclusive.” 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). This review is deferential, see Kelley v.
Barnhart, 372 F.3d 958, 960 (8th Cir. 2004), and is
“limited to determining whether there is substantial
evidence based on the entire record to support the ALJ's
factual findings, and whether [the] decision was based on
legal error.” Clark v. Chater, 75 F.3d 414,
416 (8th Cir. 1996); see also Baker v. Barnhart, 457
F.3d 882, 892 (8th Cir. 2006); Tellez v. Barnhart,
403 F.3d 953, 956 (8th Cir. 2005). “Substantial
evidence is less than a preponderance of the evidence, but is
such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind would find
adequate to support the Commissioner's conclusion.”
Blackburn v. Colvin, 761 F.3d 853, 858 (8th Cir.
2014) (internal citations and quotation marks omitted). Where
substantial evidence supports the Commissioner's
findings, the Court should not reverse those findings merely
because other evidence exists in the record to support the
opposite conclusion. Mitchell v. Shalala, 25 F.3d
712, 714 (8th Cir. 1994).
support of her motion, Ms. Ledama argues that the ALJ
inadequately considered her fibromyalgia in determining her
RFC and that he improperly weighed the opinions of two
medical sources. Pl.'s Mem. at 11-20. The Commissioner
responds that the ALJ adequately considered and appropriately
discounted the opinions of those two medical sources and ...