United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Louise Lewis, for Plaintiff Sheryl Lynn Stimpson
Samie, United States Attorney for Defendant Nancy A.
BOWBEER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE 
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Plaintiff Sheryl Lynn Stimpson
seeks judicial review of a final decision by the Acting
Commissioner of Social Security denying her application for
social security disability insurance (DIB) and supplemental
security income (SSI). The matter is now before the Court on
the parties' cross-motions for summary judgment [Doc.
Nos. 17, 19]. For the reasons set forth below, the
plaintiff's motion is denied, the defendant's motion
is granted, and the determination of the Social Security
Administration is affirmed.
applied for DIB and SSI benefits on May 17, 2013, alleging a
disability that began on October 5, 2010. (R. 23.) Her
applications were denied initially by the Social Security
Administration on September 23, 2013, and were again denied
after reconsideration on May 5, 2014. (Id.) Stimpson
then submitted a written request on May 9, 2014 for a hearing
to review the denial of her benefit claims. (Id.) An
administrative law judge (ALJ) convened a hearing on
September 29, 2015,  at which medical expert Karen Butler,
Ph.D., and vocational expert L. David Russel testified.
(Id.) Assessing Stimpson's claims under the
five-step sequential evaluation procedure outlined in 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4) and 416.920(a)(4), the ALJ
determined Stimpson was not disabled. (R. 26-44.)
one, the ALJ determined Stimpson had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since the alleged onset date of
December 5, 2012. (R. 26.) At step two, the ALJ determined
Stimpson had the following severe impairments: history of
bilateral subdural hematomas; cervicalgia; anemia; alcoholic
hepatitis; history of right knee gunshot wound injury with a
single retained fragment; history of left knee gunshot wound
injury with multiple retained bullet fragments, moderate
degenerative joint disease, and mild genu valgus deformity;
dementia and cognitive disorder, not otherwise specified;
adjustment disorder; generalized anxiety disorder; and severe
alcohol dependence. (R. 26.) The ALJ found at the third step,
however, that no impairment or combination of impairments met
or equaled the severity of an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, subpart P, appendix 1. (Id.) At step four,
the ALJ determined Stimpson retained the residual functional
capacity (RFC) to perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), subject to the
following limitations: occasional climbing of ramps and
stairs; no climbing of ladders, ropes, or scaffolds;
occasional balancing, stooping, kneeling, crouching, and
crawling; occasional pushing or pulling with the left lower
extremity; frequent reaching overhead bilaterally; limited to
routine, simple and repetitive tasks; involving no more than
occasional changes in routine work functions; involving goal
oriented work but not at a fast production rate pace;
operating in a low stress environment; requiring no more than
brief and superficial contact with coworkers, the public, and
supervisors; and not involving exposure to drugs or alcohol
as part of the assigned job duties. (R. 31.) Based on these
limitations, the ALJ concluded Stimpson could not meet the
task requirements of her past jobs as an office clerk,
receptionist, or order filler. (R. 42.) However, the ALJ
concluded she could make a successful adjustment to work as a
hand packager, cleaner, or produce sorter. (R. 43.)
Therefore, because Stimpson was able to work in certain
positions available in the American economy, the ALJ
determined at step five that she is not disabled. (R. 43.)
the adverse decision, Stimpson requested the Appeals Council
review the ALJ's decision denying her DIB and SSI
applications. (R. 1.) With that request, she submitted a new
psychological evaluation report by Paul Reitman, Ph.D., that
had not been available at the time of the hearing before the
ALJ. (R. 2.) After reviewing the request, the Appeals Council
found no reason under its rules to review the ALJ decision
and denied Stimpson's request. (R. 1.) Stimpson then
initiated this action for judicial review of the
Commissioner's decision pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). Stimpson argues the Appeals Council erred when it
disregarded Dr. Reitman's report, and for that reason,
the Commissioner's disability determination is not
support by substantial evidence.
Court has reviewed the entire administrative record, giving
particular attention to the facts and records cited by the
parties. The Court will recount the facts of record only to
the extent they are helpful for context or necessary for
resolution of the specific issues presented in the
Standard of Review
review of the Commissioner's denial of benefits is
limited to determining whether substantial evidence on the
record as a whole supports the decision. 42 U.S.C. §
405(g). Substantial evidence means “such relevant
evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to
support a conclusion, ” Davidson v. Astrue,
578 F.3d 838, 841 (8th Cir. 2009) (quoting Richardson v.
Perales, 402 U.S. 389 (1971)), meaning that less than a
preponderance of the evidence is needed to meet the standard.
Krogmeier v. Barnhart, 294 F.3d 1019, 1022 (8th Cir.
2002). The Court must examine “evidence that detracts
from the Commissioner's decision as well as evidence that
supports it.” Id. (citing Craig v.
Apfel, 212 F.3d 433, 436 (8th Cir. 2000)). The Court may
not reverse the ALJ's decision simply because substantial
evidence would support a different outcome or the Court would
have decided the case differently. Id. (citing
Woolf v. Shalala, 3 F.3d 1210, 1213 (8th Cir.
1993)). Thus, if it is possible to reach two inconsistent
positions from the evidence and one of those positions is
that of the Commissioner, the Court must affirm the decision.
Robinson v. Sullivan, 956 F.2d 836, 838 (8th Cir.
claimant has the burden to prove disability. See Roth v.
Shalala, 45 F.3d 279, 282 (8th Cir. 1995). To meet the
definition of disability for DIB purposes, the claimant must
establish that she is unable “to engage in any
substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically
determinable physical or mental impairment which can be
expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). The same
standard applies to SSI claims. See 42 U.S.C. §
1382c(a)(3)(A). The disability, not just the impairment, must
have lasted or be expected to last for at least twelve
months. Titus v. Sullivan, 4 F.3d 590, 594 (8th Cir.
reviewing the Commissioner's denial of a disability
claim, the Court assesses whether the disability
determination is supported by substantial evidence at each
step of the Commissioner's five-step sequential
evaluation process. See 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520, 416.920. At the first step, the Commissioner
determines if the claimant is working, i.e.
“engaging in substantial gainful activity.” 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). If
the claimant is engaging in substantial gainful activity, she
is not disabled and the analysis ends there. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(b), 416.920(b). At step two, the
Commissioner assesses whether the claimant has a medically
determinable impairment that is “severe, ”
meaning it limits his ability to perform basic work
activities. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c), 416.920(c).
If the claimant's impairment or set of impairments are
not severe, the claimant is not disabled. Id. At
step three, the Commissioner determines whether the
claimant's impairment qualifies as a “listed
impairment, ” 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv), i.e. an
impairment that per se qualifies a claimant for
disability. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(d), 416.920(d).
If the claimant's impairment is not listed, however, the
ALJ then proceeds to assess the claimant's RFC based on
“all the relevant medical and other evidence in [the]
record.” 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e),
416.920(e). At step four, the Commissioner considers the
claimant's RFC and determines if the claimant is able to
meet the demands of the job she held prior to the outset of
the impairment. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(f),
416.920(f). If the claimant is capable of working in his
former job, the claimant is not disabled. Id.
at step five, the Commissioner assesses whether the claimant
is able to adjust to any other work, taking into account his
RFC, age, education and work experience. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v). If the
claimant is able to do other work, she is not disabled. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(g), 416.920(g). Unlike the
previous steps where the claimant has the burden of proof, at
this last step the Commissioner has the burden of proving the
claimant is not disabled due to the availability of other
work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1512(b)(3), 416.912(b)(3).
In particular, the ALJ must show that other work exists in