United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Karen S. H., Plaintiff,
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
L. Christianson, Esq., Thomas A. Krause, counsel for
Samie, Esq., United States Attorney's Office, counsel for
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
R. THORSON United States Magistrate Judge.
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Plaintiff Karen S. H. seeks
judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner of
Social Security (“the Commissioner”) denying her
application for disability insurance 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. 13, 16.) For the reasons stated below, the Court
concludes that the Administrative Law Judge's
(“ALJ”) decision is supported by substantial
evidence in the record. Therefore, Plaintiff's motion is
denied and Defendant's motion is granted.
filed an application for disability insurance benefits
(“DIB”) on July 17, 2014, alleging a disability
onset date of July 1, 2011. (Tr. 18, 258.) The Social
Security Administration (“SSA”) denied her claim
initially on December 17, 2014, and on reconsideration on
April 23, 2015. (Tr. 18, 180-84, 192-94.) A hearing was then
held by the ALJ on October 20, 2016. (Tr. 18, 136-47.) After
the hearing, Plaintiff submitted additional medical evidence,
which was reviewed and added to the record. (Tr. 11-110.) The
ALJ issued a decision denying benefits on November 9, 2016
(Tr. 18, 111), and Plaintiff sought review. The SSA Appeals
Council denied Plaintiff's request for review on October
3, 2017, making the ALJ's decision the final decision of
the Commissioner. (Tr. 1-6); 20 C.F.R. § 404.981.
April 11, 2018, Plaintiff filed this action seeking judicial
review pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). (Doc. No. 1,
Compl.) The parties then filed cross-motions for summary
judgment, pursuant to the Local Rules. (Doc. Nos. 13, 16.) In
Plaintiff's motion, she argues that the ALJ erred at step
four of the disability evaluation analysis in determining
Plaintiff's residual functional capacity
(“RFC”). Plaintiff asserts that the ALJ failed to
evaluate properly the work-related limitations as described
by the examining psychologist, Dr. June Meyerhoff. (Doc. No.
14, Pl.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J. (“Pl.'s
Mem.”) 15-26.) Plaintiff also argues that the ALJ erred
at step five of the analysis in that the ALJ's RFC
hypothetical question to the vocational expert did not
precisely set forth Plaintiff's credible limitations.
(Pl.'s Mem. 26-28.) Defendant argues that the ALJ
properly assigned little weight to the opinion of the
consultative examiner, because Dr. Meyerhoff was unable to
review the most recent medical evidence and the opinion did
not address all of Plaintiff's functional limitations.
(Doc. No. 17, Def.'s Mem. Supp. Mot. Summ. J
(“Def.'s Mem.”) 13-31.)
Relevant Factual Background
protectively filed an application for DIB on July 14, 2014,
alleging an onset date of July 1, 2011. (Tr. 114, 258.) From
her date of alleged onset through 2014, Plaintiff sought and
received medical treatment to address various physical
complaints. Plaintiff's appeal relates to her mental
impairments. Accordingly, the summary of facts focuses on
Plaintiff's history of anxiety and depression.
April 25, 2014, Plaintiff saw her primary care physician,
Christina E. Anderson, M.D., for a routine physical
examination. (Tr. 650, 655.) During the examination, Dr.
Anderson administered the Patient Health Questionnaire
(PHQ-9) depression screening and the Generalized Anxiety
Disorder-7 (GAD-7) screening. (Tr. 652-53.) Her scores
indicated mild depression and minimal anxiety. (Tr. 652-53.)
saw Dr. Anderson again on November 24, 2014, stating that she
continued to feel somewhat down. (Tr. 688, 691.) Plaintiff
told Dr. Anderson that she felt crabby and irritated and
wanted to try seeing a psychologist. (Tr. 691.) On the PHQ-9
and GAD-7, her overall scores indicated severe depression and
anxiety. (Tr. 690.) Dr. Anderson increased Plaintiff's
Lyrica dose, prescribed Cymbalta, and advised Plaintiff to
start taking vitamin D daily. (Tr. 692.) Dr. Anderson also
referred Plaintiff to psychologist, June Meyerhoff, Psy.D.
December 6, 2014, Plaintiff presented for a consultative
examination with Dr. Meyerhoff. (Tr. 565-71.) Plaintiff
reported anxiety with panic attacks, not liking to be around
other people, feeling irritable and lashing out, and endorsed
episodic depression. (Tr. 565, 567.) Plaintiff described a
history of intermittent treatment and said her primary care
physician had most recently prescribed Cymbalta a week prior,
but she had stopped taking it due to a feared medication
interaction with over-the-counter cold medicine. (Tr. 566.)
reported that she lived with her husband, two children, and
two dogs. (Tr. 568.) She said she liked to watch movies,
read, clean the house, and play computer games. (Tr. 566.)
She said she would become easily distracted when working on
tasks and had to take breaks. (Tr. 567.) On a typical day,
she would get up with her children around 6 a.m., let the
dogs out, eat, take her medication, shower, and dress. (Tr.
567.) She said she woke her husband up around 9:30 a.m. and
would watch television, play games, pay bills, sometimes go
to appointments, prepare dinner, and make ...