United States District Court, D. Minnesota
D. Olinsky and Edward C. Olson for Plaintiff.
A. Marentette, Assistant United States Attorney, for
FRANKLIN L. NOEL UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Cathy Adrenna Banks seeks judicial review of the final
decision of the Acting Commissioner
(“Commissioner”) of the Social Security
Administration (“SSA”), who denied her
application for a period of disability and disability
insurance benefits under Title II 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
judgement. See ECF Nos. 16 and 18. For the reasons
set forth below, the Commissioner's decision is
AFFIRMED and the case is DISMISSED
applied for disability insurance benefits on September 3,
2013, alleging disability as of February 27, 2013.
Administrative Record [hereinafter “AR”] 160-61.
Banks' application was denied initially on November 21,
2013, and upon reconsideration on May 13, 2014. AR 98- 102,
108-11. An administrative hearing was held before
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) Peter Kimball on
July 8, 2015. AR 39-80. The ALJ found that Banks was not
disabled and denied Banks' application for disability
insurance benefits on September 21, 2015. AR 9-27. On July
19, 2016, the SSA Appeals Council denied Banks' request
for review and finalized the ALJ's decision for purposes
of judicial review. AR 1-3; see 20 C.F.R. §
404.981. On September 19, 2016, Banks commenced this civil
action, seeking reversal of the ALJ's decision or, in the
alternative, remand for further proceedings. ECF No. 1 at 4.
FINDINGS OF FACTS
was fifty-one years-old on the date of her alleged
disability. AR 160. Banks claims the following severe
impairments prevent her from securing and maintaining
competitive employment: migraines, asthma, allergies, carpal
tunnel, trigger fingers, and osteoarthritis. AR 179. Banks
completed two-years of post-secondary education, and her past
relevant work is as a patient coordinator. AR 47.
Migraines, Asthma, and Allergies
medical records note that Banks has a history of migraines
and asthma. See, e.g., AR 442, 448, 702. On January
28, 2014, Banks visited Guarav Guliani, MD, a neurologist,
about paresthesia in her right hand, headaches and stiffness
in her neck. AR 448-49. At the time, Banks was taking Imitrex
about once a week for bad headaches, and said the medication
was helping and made things livable. Id. Dr. Guliani
added amitriptyline to Banks' pain regimen, and referred
Banks to physical therapy for her headache and neck pain. AR
April of 2014, Banks reported having headaches every day to
every other day, and severe headaches about three to four
times a month. AR 469. During this time period, Banks missed
two physical therapy appointments, which she stated were due
to her short-term memory deficit. AR 581. In August of 2014,
Banks reported her headaches had improved somewhat and were a
quarter of what they once were. AR 615. On September 30,
2014, Banks told her physical therapist that while she
continued to have headaches about every other day, they were
decreasing in severity. AR 749.
November of 2014, Banks saw Adam Loavenbruck, MD, and
informed him that her headaches were slightly improving. AR
688. Dr. Loavenbruck noted a likely driving factor behind
Banks' headaches was sleep deprivation. AR 687-89.
September 17, 2013, Banks visited Hennepin County Medical
Center (HCMC) for a preoperative examination. AR 297. During
her medical examination, her lungs were clear to percussion
and auscultation. AR 298. On July 15, 2014, Banks again
visited HCMC for a physical examination. AR 647. She had no
cough or shortness of breath, her breathing was normal, and
she had no respiratory distress. AR 649-50.
Osteoarthritis, Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and Trigger
October 22, 2013, Banks presented to Thomas A. Bergman, MD,
with complaints of pain in her right (dominant) upper
extremity after a fall in January of 2012. AR 400. Dr.
Bergman noted that Banks had no major weakness in her hands.
Id. Her left arm was assessed as normal, and her
right arm showed only generalized weakness in her deltoids
and triceps; a recent surgery was believed to be affecting
her strength. Id.
was diagnosed with a right mild median sensory neuropathy by
electromyography (EMG) on June 21, 2012. AR 263. In August of
2012, Banks underwent right carpal tunnel release surgery. AR
268. An EMG performed on August 20, 2013, revealed presence
of a subacute to chronic C7-C8 radiculopathy and a mild
median mononeuropathy localized to the wrist and consistent
with mild carpal tunnel syndrome. AR 263-65.
August 19, 2013, Banks presented to Thomas F. Varecka, MD, at
HCMC's Orthopedic Clinic for right carpal tunnel syndrome
and trigger finger. AR 268. On examination, Banks'
sensation was noted to be intact to light touch along the
median, radial, and ulnar nerve distributions of the right
hand, no atrophy was observed in the thenar muscles, her
median nerve moto appeared to be intact, and she was able to
abduct and fire the extensor pollicis longus (EPL) and flexor
pollicis longus (FPL). AR 271.
September 9, 2013, Dr. Varecka diagnosed Banks with
questionably persistent right carpal tunnel syndrome, C7-C9
radiculopathy, and right index, middle, and ring finger
triggers. AR 279-80. Banks' EMG findings in regard to her
carpal tunnel were not significantly different from her
preoperative EMG. AR 279. An MRI of the cervical spine on
September 19, 2013, showed degenerative disc disease. AR 468.
September 25, 2013, Dr. Varecka performed trigger finger
release surgery. AR 313. On October 21, 2013, Banks reported
she was doing well to Dr. Varecka. AR 392. Banks reported a
bit of tenderness around the incisions and some soreness when
fully extending her fingers, but otherwise no problems and an
ability to fully extend all her fingers and form a full,
tight fist with full flexion. Id.
December of 2013, Banks returned to Dr. Varecka. AR 411. Dr.
Varecka observed tenderness in her right hand, with moderate
weakness, and inability to hyperextend the fingers, but full
active finger and elbow range of motion. Id. Dr.
Varecka recommended conservative treatment with occupational
began attending hand therapy in January of 2014, and physical
therapy for neck pain and headache pain in February of 2014.
See generally, AR 418-98. In March of 2014, Banks
reported her neck was feeling “not too bad” and
an improved active cervical range of motion was noted. AR
516-17. When Dr. Varecka saw Banks on March 24, 2014, a
neurological examination of the right arm demonstrated motor
function of 5/5 in the C5 nerve root distribution, and 4/5 in
the C6-TI nerve root distribution. AR 524. Dr. Varecka noted
the Banks' reported symptoms of ...