United States District Court, D. Minnesota
H. Greeman, Esq., Greeman Toomey PLLC, counsel for Plaintiff.
Gregory G. Brooker, Esq., Marisa Silverman, Esq., United
States Attorney's Office, counsel for Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
R. THORSON UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Plaintiff seeks judicial review
of the final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security
(“the Commissioner”) denying his application for
supplemental security income (“SSI”) benefits.
This matter is before the Court on the parties'
cross-motions for summary judgment, in accordance with D.
Minn. LR 7.2(c)(1). (Doc. Nos. 12, 15.) The matter is
referred to the undersigned for a Report and Recommendation
pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636 and D. Minn. L.R. 7.2, 72.1.
For the reasons stated below, this Court recommends that
Plaintiff's motion be granted, Defendant's motion be
denied, and this matter be remanded for further consideration
of the opinion of Plaintiff's treating physician, Dr.
Paul Erickson, that Plaintiff would be limited in his ability
to respond appropriately to changes in a routine work
applied for SSI under title XVI of the Social Security Act on
May 2, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of September 1,
2006. (Tr. 230.) The Social Security Administration
(“SSA”) denied Plaintiff's application on
October 30, 2014, and then again on reconsideration on March
31, 2015. (Tr. 138, 146.) At Plaintiff's request, a
hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) was held on December 7, 2016, and on May
17, 2017. (Tr. 38-79.) The ALJ denied Plaintiff's
application on June 23, 2017, and the Social Security Appeal
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on August
30, 2017. (Tr. 1, 14.) The denial of review by the Appeals
Council made the ALJ's decision the final decision of the
Commissioner. 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.
October 13, 2017, Plaintiff filed this action seeking
judicial review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Doc.
No. 1.) On January 10, 2018, Defendant filed an Answer along
with a certified copy of the administrative record. (Doc.
Nos. 8, 9.) The parties have now filed cross-motions for
summary judgement pursuant to the Local Rules. (Doc. Nos. 12,
was eighteen years old at the time of his alleged onset date
of September 1, 2006. (Tr. 230.) Plaintiff was born and
raised in Arkansas and moved to Minnesota in 2006. (Tr. 388,
330.) Records from the University of Minnesota Medical Center
indicate that Plaintiff attended Special Education classes
and dropped out of high school in eleventh grade. (Tr.
335.) In 2016, Plaintiff did not have a
permanent place to live, and he stayed back and forth with
his aunt and his girlfriend. (Tr. 47, 364, 388.)
2006 and 2016, Plaintiff worked for several employers,
including Atlas Staffing Inc., Twin City Maintenance Team
Inc., and Redking Foods LLC. (Tr. 242-45.) Plaintiff's
therapist, Dr. Deirdre Golden, indicated that Plaintiff had
many jobs but the longest employment lasted only ninety days
because of his low tolerance for frustration. (Tr. 456.)
issue in this appeal are Plaintiff's mental limitations.
Plaintiff was first diagnosed with depression on September
13, 2006. (Tr. 331.) At his disability hearing on May 17,
2017, Plaintiff testified that he had problems with his
temper and was frequently angry and anxious. (Tr. 50-51.) He
testified to an eighth-grade education, and that he has
difficulty reading. (Tr. 53, 55, 56.) Dr. Karen Butler, a
licensed clinical psychologist, also testified at
Plaintiff's hearing. (Tr. 56-66.) According to Dr.
Butler, Plaintiff's ability to understand, remember, and
apply information was moderately impaired. (Tr. 59.) Also
according to Dr. Butler, Plaintiff's ability to interact
with others was markedly impaired, his ability to concentrate
and maintain pace was markedly impaired, and his ability to
manage himself was markedly impaired. (Tr. 59-61.) Dr. Butler
testified that these marked impairments were due to
Plaintiff's frequent anger outbursts and his ongoing
The ALJ's Findings and Decision
decision dated June 23, 2017, the ALJ found that Plaintiff
was disabled within the meaning of the Social Security Act
and denied Plaintiff's SSI application. (Tr. 31.) The ALJ
proceeded through the five-step evaluation process provided
in the social security regulations. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1520(a)(4). These steps are as follows: (1)
whether the claimant is presently engaged in
“substantial gainful activity”; (2) whether the
claimant is severely impaired; (3) whether the impairment
meets or equals a presumptively disabling impairment listed
in the regulations; (4) whether the claimant can perform past
relevant work; and, if not, (5) whether the claimant can
perform other jobs available in sufficient numbers in the
national economy. Id. § 404.1520(a)-(f).
one, the ALJ found that Plaintiff had not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since May 2, 2014,
Plaintiff's application date. (Tr. 19.) At step two, the
ALJ found that Plaintiff had the following severe
impairments: “bipolar disorder, antisocial personality
disorder, borderline intellectual functioning, post traumatic
stress disorder, right knee and right shoulder degenerative
joint disease, and Graves disease with history of
thyroidectomy.” (Tr. 19.)
three, the ALJ found that Plaintiff's degenerative joint
disease of the right shoulder and knee do not meet the
requirements of Listing 1.02, and his thyroid gland disorder
does not meet the listing for affected body systems under
Listing 9.00B2. (Tr. 20.) The ALJ also found that Plaintiff
does not have an impairment or combination of impairments
that meets or medically equals the severity of Listings 12.04
(depressive, bipolar, and related disorders), 12.05
(intellectual disorders), 12.08 (personality and impulse
control disorders), and 12.11 (neurodevelopmental disorders).
(Tr. 20.) Regarding the paragraph B criteria, the ALJ
explained that Plaintiff has moderate limitations in
understanding, remembering, or applying information; moderate
limitations in interacting with supervisors, coworkers, and
the public; moderate limitations in concentrating,
persisting, or maintaining pace; and moderate limitations in
adapting or managing oneself. (Tr. 20-22.)
pertains to Listing 12.05, the ALJ reasoned that Plaintiff
does not have significantly subaverage general intellectual
functioning, significant deficits in current adaptive
functioning, and manifestation of the disorder before age 22.
(Tr. 22-23.) The ALJ noted that Plaintiff lives independently
and cares for himself. (Tr. 23.) The ALJ also noted that
although Plaintiff obtained a full-scale IQ of 70 or below,
he does not have a marked limitation in two, or an extreme
limitation in one, of the four areas of adaptive functioning.
the ALJ noted that no state agency psychological consultant
concluded that a mental listing is medically equaled.
(Id.) The ALJ gave “little weight” to
the opinion of Dr. Butler, the impartial medical expert who
testified that Plaintiff has marked limitations in his
ability to interact with others, maintain concentration,
persistence or pace, and adapt or manage himself.
(Id.) The ALJ reasoned that the reports of
consulting examiners Dr. Alford ...