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Xee Y. v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 5, 2019

Xee Y., Plaintiff,
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Gregg B. Nelson, and Thomas A. Krause, (for Plaintiff); and

          Elvi D. Jenkins, Assistant Regional Counsel, (for Defendant).


          Steven E. Rau United States Magistrate Judge

         Plaintiff Xee Y. brings the present action, contesting Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's denial of her application for disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401-34. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment and consented to a final judgment from the undersigned pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) and D. Minn. LR 7.2. For the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Plaintiff's motion and grants Defendant's motion.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed the instant action on December 2, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of September 11, 2014. Plaintiff alleges impairments of: posttraumatic stress disorder/depression; generalized anxiety disorder; fibromyalgia/chronic pain; high blood pressure; high cholesterol; stomach issues/ulcers; vertigo/headaches/dizziness; arm/leg cramps/inability to walk at times; insomnia; and kidney stones. Plaintiff was found not disabled and that finding was affirmed upon reconsideration. Plaintiff requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. A hearing was held and, on March 15, 2017, the ALJ issued a decision denying Plaintiff's claim for benefits. Plaintiff sought review of the ALJ's decision through the Appeals Council, which denied review. Plaintiff sought review in this Court.

         B. The ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ found Plaintiff last met the insured status requirements on December 31, 2014. (Tr. 20). Through the date last insured, the ALJ found Plaintiff had the severe impairments of: mild scoliosis and lumber degenerative disc disease; major depressive disorder; generalized anxiety disorder; post traumatic stress disorder; cognitive defects; and pain disorder. (Tr. 20). The ALJ next concluded that Plaintiff, through the date last insured, did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of a listing in 20 C.F.R. pt. 404, subpt. P, app. 1. (Tr. 21). The ALJ looked at Listings 1.04 (disorders of the spine), 12.02 (neurocognitive disorders), 12.04 (anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders), 12.06 (anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders), and 12.15 (trauma- and stressor-related disorders). (Tr. 21-23). The ALJ determined Plaintiff has the residual functioning capacity (“RFC”) to perform medium work with various physical limitations and, with respect to mental limitations, she was “limited to simple routine tasks, and may have occasional superficial contact with supervisors, coworkers, and members of the public.” (Tr. 23). The ALJ defined “superficial” as “rated no lower than an 8 on the Selected Characteristics of Occupations' people rating.” (Tr. 23). While Plaintiff could not perform her past work, the ALJ concluded that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform when considering her age, education, work experience, and RFC. (Tr. 28-30). Accordingly, Plaintiff was found not disabled from September 11, 2014 through her date last insured, December 31, 2014. (Tr. 30).

         II. ANALYSIS

         A. Legal Standard

         Disability benefits are available to individuals determined disabled. 42 U.S.C. § 423(a)(1); accord 20 C.F.R. § 404.315. An individual is disabled if she is unable “to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). This standard is met when a severe physical or mental impairment, or impairments, renders the individual unable to do her previous work or “any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy” when taking into account her age, education, and work experience. 42 U.S.C.§§ 423(d)(2)(A); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1505(a). Disability is determined according to a five-step, sequential evaluation process. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4).

To determine disability, the ALJ follows the familiar five-step process, considering whether: (1) the claimant was employed; (2) she was severely impaired; (3) her impairment was, or was comparable to, a listed impairment; (4) she could perform past relevant work; and if not, (5) whether she could perform any other kind of work.

Halverson v. Astrue, 600 F.3d 922, 929 (8th Cir. 2010) (citing 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4), 416.920(a)(4)). In general, the burden of proving the existence of disability lies with the claimant. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1512(a); Thomas ...

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