United States District Court, D. Minnesota
C. Olson, Attorney, for Plaintiff
Marentett, Assistant U.S. Attorney, for Defendant
FRANKLIN L. NOEL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Stephoney Beckman seeks judicial review of the final decision
of the Commissioner of the Social Security Administration,
who denied her application for disability insurance benefits
under Title II and Title XVI of the Social Security Act.
See 42 U.S.C. §1382(c). This Court has
jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C.
§§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), 28 U.S.C. § 636(c),
and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 73. See ECF No.
1. The parties submitted cross-motions for summary judgment.
See ECF Nos. 11 and 14. For the reasons set forth
below, the Commissioner's decision is
AFFIRMED and the case is DISMISSED
April 5, 2013, Beckman filed an application for disability
insurance benefits. Administrative Record [hereinafter
“AR”] 167, ECF No. 10. Beckman alleges that she
became disabled on June 19, 2013. Id. Beckman's
application was denied initially and again on
reconsideration. AR 102, 112. On January 5, 2015, an
administrative hearing was held before Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) Roger Thomas. AR 11. On February
11, 2015, the ALJ denied Beckman's application for
disability insurance benefits. AR 11-22. On July 18, 2016,
the Appeals Council denied Beckman's request for review,
rendering the ALJ's decision final for purposes of
judicial review. AR 1-3; see 20 C.F.R. §
404.981. On September 19, 2016, Beckman commenced this civil
action, seeking a reversal of the Commissioner's
decision, or in the alternative, a remand for further
proceedings. See ECF No. 1 at 3.
FINDING OF FACTS
was born on September 19, 1966. AR 72, 87. For the purposes
of disability insurance benefits, she is considered a younger
individual. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1563(c).
Beckman claims that the following disabilities preclude her
from securing and maintaining competitive employment: major
depressive disorder; panic disorder; PTSD; somatoform
disorder; fibromyalgia; inflammatory arthritis; obesity; and
asthma. AR 13. Beckman does not allege any error regarding
the ALJ's determinations of the above disabilities. The
Court, therefore, adopts the ALJ's factual findings as to
these impairments and does not reiterate them below.
Beckman's past relevant work includes jobs as a day care
assistant, accounts payable, bank teller, manager, substitute
teacher, executive assistant, customer service
representative, and receptionist. AR 275.
Physical Health Impairments
22, 2012, Beckman presented to David Caccarno, M.D.,
complaining of worsening joint pain and a history of
rheumatoid arthritis. AR 363. Beckman reported taking
methotrexate and celebrex to control joint pain, but the side
effects of these medications concerned her. Id.
Specifically, Caccarno noted that Beckman found it more
desirable to live with pain than to risk the side effects of
taking medication. Id. Caccarno referred Beckman to
a rheumatologist for further examination regarding her
rheumatoid arthritis and recommended that Beckman begin daily
anti-inflammatory drug treatments. Id.
2, 2012, Wu Sou Pan, M.D., examined Beckman and found no
evidence of inflammatory arthritis. AR 369. Wu opined that
Beckman's anti-inflammatory medications were not helpful
to Beckman's joint pain. Id. Wu also noted that
fibromyalgia and somatic complaints were the likely cause of
Beckman's ongoing pain. AR 370. On July 9, 2012, Beckman
presented to Erica Rodell, M.D., and she reported frustration
with Wu's findings-noting her inability to attend work
for the last two weeks due to her pain levels. AR 377. Rodell
provided Beckman with an excused absence work letter for the
next three weeks, in hopes that she would receive treatment
from a rheumatologist. Id.
13, 2013, Beckman presented to Thomas Harkcom, M.D. AR 380.
Harkcom diagnosed Beckman with seronegative polyarthritis
with erosive changes that developed on minimal therapy as
well as secondary fibromyalgia. AR 379. Predinsone and a pool
therapy program were recommended as treatment. Id. A
second excused from work letter was provided to Beckman, with
further evaluation to be made after six weeks. AR 380.
29, 2012, Beckman was reexamined by Rodell. AR 390. At this
examination, Beckman noted her dissatisfaction with the
progress she had made since her appointment with Harkcom and
difficulty managing her pain. Id. Rodell noted
Beckman's leave of absence from work and disability.
August 14, 2012, Beckman was examined by David Baram, M.D. AR
394. During this appointment, Baram noted Beckman's
history of arthritis. Id. Baram also noted that
Beckman should consult with a rheumatologist to obtain a more
effective treatment regimen. Id. On August 20, 2012,
Beckman was reexamined by Harkcom. An EMG revealed low grade
synovitis of the wrist. AR 398. Harkcom noted that Beckman
showed good motion in her left hip and knee, and prescribed
plaquenil to manage her joint symptoms. AR 400. Beckman also
reported improved symptoms. AR 400.
a visit in November 2012, Harkcom stated that the primary
medical concern at that time was not Beckman's arthritis,
but fibromyalgia. AR 406. During this visit, Beckman stated
that she was unable to continue with pool therapy due to
insurance issues. See id. Moreover, Beckman decided
to cease medications due to a concern of adverse side
effects. Id. When asked about returning to work,
Beckman stated that she does not think that she can maintain
employment. See id.
January 25, 2013, Beckman was once again examined by Harkcom,
and he discussed the importance of exercise-particularly pool
therapy with Beckman. AR 409. At this visit, Beckman
complained of chronic joint pain and poor life quality. AR
408. Harkcom noted that Beckman suffered from mild
inflammatory arthritis, but the condition was minimal. AR
March 27, 2013, Beckman presented to Rodell for palpitations
and respiratory tract infection. AR 412. Rodell noted that
Beckman had refused to participate in pool therapy.
Id. Three days later, Beckman was admitted to
Woodwinds Hospital after passing out. AR 291. EKG, MRI, and
MRA testing were conducted-no abnormalities were found. AR
April 10, 2013, Beckman presented to Mary McCauley, MS,
LICSW, for a behavioral health evaluation. AR 419. McCauley
noted Beckman's “pain disorder associated with a
condition: fibromyalgia and arthritis.” AR 420. During
the evaluation, Beckman noted a history of depression,
anxiety, and pain. Id.
August 2013, Rodell noted that Beckman's rheumatologist
and the medical and pain management clinic recommended that
she gradually return to work over the next year AR 483.
Beckman stated that she “would like to get a second
opinion from different rheumatologists and pain specialists
so that they would approve her for disability.”
Id. Rodell informed Beckman that many people are
able to work with fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis, and
that her mental health condition was likely the limiting
factors to her recovery. Id.
December 10, 2013, Beckman was taken to the Woodwinds
Hospital Emergency Room after passing out again, however, no
abnormalities were found. AR 651. On January 9 2014, Beckman
received injections in her spine and a radio-frequency
ablation. AR 574. Andrew Schakel, M.D., treated Beckman with
methotrexate. AR 568. Schakel noted some swelling; however
“there [were] no other swollen joints, upper or lower
mid-2014, Beckman began attending physical therapy at Courage
Kenny Sports and Physical Therapy - Cottage Grove, in Cottage
Grove, Minnesota. AR 626. On July 24, 2014, Beckman's
physical therapist noted that Beckman had been “doing a
lot of packing which makes her body sore, especially her feet
and back.” AR 627. The following weekend, Beckman held
a yard sale-which left her “emotionally and physically
exhausted.” AR 633.
Mental Health Impairments
August 14, 2012, Beckman presented to Minnesota Mental Health
Clinics, where she was diagnosed with an adjustment disorder
with mixed anxiety and depressed mood. AR 285. At the
appointment, Beckman's mood and affect were described as
calm and she scored a 60 on the Global Assessment of
Functioning test-indicating moderate symptoms. AR 285-86.
March 2013, Rodell noted mental Beckman's mental health
issues and discussed with Beckman her concerns regarding her
mental state. AR 412. Furthermore, Rodell noted that Beckman
claims that she is often unable to leave her bed and wishes
that “she simply would not wake up.” AR 411-12.
April 2013, Beckman began psychotherapy sessions with
McCauley. AR 415. McCauley's initial diagnose was pain
disorder associated with fibromyalgia and arthritis. AR 419.
During this appointment, Beckman's mood was described as
“depressed and worried” and she scored a 50 on
the Global Assessment of Functioning test. Id. On
May 6, 2013, Beckman returned to McCauley for further
treatment. AR 439. McCauley noted that Beckman's mood was
improved and her speech, eye contact, and thought process
were within normal limits. Id. Further, Beckman
informed McCauley that she had “turned a corner”
in her recovery and had recently accepted a position on a
committee for a non-profit group. Id. Beckman
estimated that position would consume “a couple hours a
month, and she can start and stop tasks as needed.”
17, 2013, Beckman presented to Dr. Gay Bartholic. AR 449.
Bartholic diagnosed and prescribed medication for depression
and anxiety. Id. A Global Assessment of Functioning
score of 52, ...