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Bass v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 28, 2018

Dianna Bass, Plaintiff,
v.
Nancy Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Edward Olson and Karl Osterhout, for Plaintiff.

          Ann Bildtsen, Assistant United States Attorney, for Defendant.

          ORDER

          FRANKLIN L. NOEL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Dianna Bass seeks judicial review of the final decision of the Acting Commissioner (“Commissioner”) of the Social Security Administration (“SSA”), who denied her application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) and supplemental security income (“SSI”) under Title II and Title XIV of the Social Security Act. 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 Rule 73 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The parties have submitted cross motions for summary judgement. See ECF Nos. 12 and 15. For the reasons set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is AFFIRMED and the case is DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE.

         I. INTRODUCTION [1]

         A. Background

         On October 28, 2000, Bass fell from a ladder while cleaning gutters. Administrative Record [hereinafter “AR”] 851, ECF No. 11. This case stems from the multiple head injuries Bass sustained attendant to that accident, and her subsequent challenges in securing and maintaining competitive employment in light of those injuries. See generally ECF No. 1.

         On November 22, 2013, Bass applied for DIB and SSI. AR 10. Bass alleges that her disability began on January 1, 2010. Id. Bass was fifty-two years-old when she applied for DIB and SSI. AR 24. Bass' applications for DIB and SSI were denied initially on March 17, 2014, and on reconsideration on October 29, 2014. Id.; AR 77-90; 142-143.

         On November 13, 2015, an administrative hearing was held before Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Peter Kimball. AR 32-76. At the hearing, Bass testified and was represented by a claimant advocate, Bart Painter. AR 34. Steve Bosch, a vocational expert (“VE”), and Dr. Mary Stevens, a neutral medical expert, also testified at the hearing. Id. On December 11, 2015, the ALJ denied Bass' applications for DIB and SSI, and found that Bass was not disabled. AR 10- 26.

         On October 19, 2016, the SSA Appeals Council denied Bass' 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 December 15, 2016, Bass commenced this civil action, seeking an award of benefits, or alternatively, reversal and remand for further proceedings. ECF No. 1 at 2.

         B. The ALJ's Decision

         In determining that Bass was not disabled, the ALJ followed the five-step sequential process established by the SSA. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4).

         The first step in the sequential evaluation is to evaluate the claimant's work history to determine if they are engaged in substantial gainful activity. See 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.15071 and 416.971. If the claimant has performed substantial work activity then they are not disabled. Id. At step one, the ALJ found that although Bass had worked part-time, she had not engaged in substantial work activity since her alleged disability onset date. AR 15.

         The second step in the sequential evaluation is to determine whether the claimant has a severe, medically-determinable impairment, or combination of impairments, that significantly limits an individual's ability to perform basic work activities. See 20 C.F.R. ยงยง 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c). At step two, the ALJ found that Bass had the following severe impairments: history of a traumatic brain injury secondary ...


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