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Janssen v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 22, 2018

Gerald Janssen, o/b/o Jill Janssen deceased, Plaintiff,
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Karl E. Osterhout and Edward C. Olson, for Plaintiff.

          Gregory G. Booker, Assistant United States Attorney, for Defendant.



         Plaintiff Gerald Janssen seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Acting Commissioner (“Commissioner”) of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”), who denied Jill Janssen, his now deceased wife's, application for supplemental security income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. This Court has jurisdiction over the claim pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3), 28 U.S.C. § 636(c), and Rule 73 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The parties have submitted cross-motions for summary judgment. See ECF Nos. 16 and 18. For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED and the case is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.


         On June 24, 2013, Janssen filed an application for supplemental security income (“SSI”). Administrative Record [hereinafter “AR”] 81, ECF No. 14. Janssen alleged that she became disabled on June 1, 2013. AR 189. Janssen application was denied initially and again on reconsideration. AR 10-23, 1-5. On April 28, 2015, an administrative hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Michael D. Quayle. AR 40-61. On February 2, 2012, the ALJ denied Janssen's applications for SSI. AR 62-72. On January 9, 2013, the SSA Appeals Council denied Janssen's request for review, rendering the ALJ's decision final for purposes of judicial review. AR 78-80, 5; see 20 C.F.R. § 404.981. On October 3, 2016, Janssen commenced this civil action, seeking a remand for further proceedings pursuant to 42 U.S.C. §§ 405(g) and 1383(c)(3). Compl., ECF No. 1.


         A. Background

         Janssen was 51 years old when she filed her applications for SSI. AR 81. Janssen claimed that the following severe impairments prevented her from securing and maintaining competitive employment: depression, anxiety, back problems, and kidney problems. AR 81-82, 187. Janssen did not have any past relevant work experience, and only identified previously working as a funeral home telemarketer. AR 90, 188, 204. Janssen had a kidney transplant in 2004. See AR 187. On October 18, 2016, Jannsen passed away and a motion for substitution of Plaintiff was granted by this Court on November 4, 2016. See ECF Nos. 7, 10.

         B. Medical Evidence

         1. Physical Impairments

         On June 11, 2013, Janssen met her primary care physician Steven Sumey, M.D. complaining of low back pain after slipping in the kitchen. AR 303. During her visit, Dr. Sumey advised Janssen to apply topical heat and do physical therapy at home. Id. Janssen visited podiatrist Richard Erbest, DPM, on August 20, 2013, complaining of bilateral painful toes. AR 261. Dr. Erbes diagnosed Janssen with bilateral hammertoes and severe osteoporosis, and told her to obtain a follow-up after getting a bone density scan. AR 263.

         Between January and May of 2014, Janssen received treatment for bilateral shoulder pain. AR 519-25. On January 9, 2014, Janssen visited Dr. Sumey at the SMART Clinic for a refill of her pain medication. AR 519. It was noted during her visit that, other than her bilateral shoulder pain, Janssen had no new problems, and was generally feeling well. Id. Janssen visited Dr. Sumey again on February 6, 2014, and March 6, 2014, complaining of shoulder pain. AR 521-23. During each visit, Dr. Sumey refilled Janssen's medication, and noted that she was generally feeling well. Id.

         On August 29, 2014, Janssen visited the FA Fairmont Hospital Emergency Department complaining of general weakness, and fatigue. AR 401. Janssen was diagnosed with a urinary tract infection with sepsis and cystitis. AR 406. During her visit, a CT scan revealed large pericardial effusion, and Janssen was transferred to St. Mary's Rochester for tertiary care. AR 407. On September 4, 2014, Janssen visited the FA Fairmont Hospital with dull abdominal pain and symptoms of nausea and vomiting. AR 418-43. Urinalysis was conducted on Janssen which showed no signs of infection, and she was discharged with a prescription for potassium. Id. On January 22, 2015 Janssen again visited FA Fairmont Hospital for abdominal pain. AR 453. Janssen was given pain and nausea medication and discharged on the same day. Id. Janssen returned to the hospital on January 26, 2015, with moderate abdominal pain which she stated began six days prior. AR 348. Due to an abnormal EKG, Janssen was transferred to the coronary care unit at Mayo Clinic. AR 386. On January 29, 2015, however, Janssen was discharged and assessed as asymptomatic. Id.

         On February 2, 2015, Janssen visited Courtney Keith, M.D., complaining of her legs jumping at night causing her difficulty in sleeping. AR 503. Janssen expressed no symptoms of epigastric pain, shortness of breath, or chest pain. Id. Dr. Keith encouraged Janssen to increase her hydration, and use of heat and massage for her muscle spasms. AR 504.

         On February 5, 2015, Dr. Keith diagnosed Janssen with depression, coronary artery disease with stenting, diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and status post kidney transplant. AR 505. Dr. Keith opined that Janssen's conditions were lifelong and that she would not be able to perform any employment in the foreseeable future. Id. Dr. Keith also completed a Medical Source Statement on March 11, 2015, providing that Janssen was able to lift less than 10 pounds, and stand and walk less than 2 hours in a 8 hour day, and that Janssen would need to periodically alternate between sitting, standing, and walking. AR 515. Dr. Keith also opined that Janssen required care for walking, and could not kneel, crawl, or crouch. AR 517. Janssen would also be absent from work more than three times a month. Id. According to Dr. Keith, these limitations were due to Janssen's chronic kidney disease, status post kidney transplant, hypertension, low back pain (degenerative disc disease), depression, coronary artery disease, and diabetes. AR 515.

         2. ...

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