United States District Court, D. Minnesota
L. Christianson, Christianson Law, Thomas A. Krause, Schott,
Mauss & Associates, PLLC, counsel for plaintiff
Bildtsen, United States Attorney's Office, counsel for
Katherine Menendez United States Magistrate Judge
Sai Her 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. 14; Def.'s Mot., ECF No. 16. Ms.
Her asks the Court to reverse the denial, enter judgment, and
remand for calculation and payment of benefits, or in the
alternative, to reverse the decision and remand for further
proceedings. Pl.'s Mem. at 34-35, ECF No. 15. The
Commissioner asks that the Court affirm the
Commissioner's decision, grant her motion for summary
judgment, and deny Ms. Her's motion for summary judgment.
Def.'s Mem. at 16-17, ECF No. 17. For the reasons that
follow, Ms. Her's motion is denied, the
Commissioner's motion is granted, and the
Commissioner's decision is affirmed.
December 3, 2013, Ms. Her 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 March 14, 2008. Admin. R.
(“AR”) at 199, 203. Ms. Her is currently 58 years
old, and suffers from cervicalgia, headaches, major
depressive disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Id. at 17. She immigrated to the United States in
1987 from Laos. Id. at 50. Ms. Her's life has
undoubtedly been marked by trauma. Her father was “shot
in combat during the war. And his side of the head was blown
off. His leg was broken, and when they brought him to [her
family], that memory still shocks [her].” Id.
at 60. And in 2002, her brother was murdered by his wife.
Id. at 416. Ms. Her has nightmares and flashbacks as
a result of these traumas. See, e.g., Id. at 400,
immigrating to the United States, Ms. Her took an English
language course. Id. at 50. Despite this course, she
still struggles with the language: she finds reading and
writing difficult and characterizes her speaking skills as
only sufficient for “[r]eally basic
conversation.” Id. at 51. Ms. Her worked
primarily assembling automobile parts, but stopped working in
March 2008 after pain interfered with her ability to complete
the required tasks. Id. at 53, 55. She now spends
her time caring for her husband, which is a great source of
stress, but also tending the family garden, socializing with
family, and walking outside when possible. Id. at
359, 379, 654.
Her's application for disability benefits was denied
initially in February 2014 and on reconsideration in October
2014. Id. at 92, 104, 120, 132. Ms. Her requested a
hearing in the matter, and ALJ Virginia Kuhn conducted such a
hearing in September 2015. Id. at 153, 168. At the
hearing, the ALJ heard testimony from Ms. Her through a
translator and from an impartial vocational expert.
Id. at 43-79. ALJ Kuhn affirmed the denial of
benefits in a detailed decision a month later. Id.
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). She found that:
(1) Ms. Her had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since March 14, 2008;
(2) Ms. Her has severe impairments that would affect her
ability to work;
(3) Ms. Her's impairments do not meet or medically equal
the “listings” set forth in 20 C.F.R. Part 404,
Subpart P, Appendix 1;
(4) Ms. Her's impairments necessitate some limitations on
her work, but she has the residual functional capacity
(“RFC”) to perform medium work; and
(5) Though Ms. Her would not be able to continue her relevant
past work, she would be able to perform multiple jobs that
are widely available in the national economy.
See Id. at 17-37. The ALJ's decision became the
final decision of the Commissioner after the appeals council
denied Ms. Her's request for review a year later.
Id. at 6-8. Ms. Her filed the complaint here the
following December, and the matter is now before the Court
for judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).