United States District Court, D. Minnesota
E. Osterhout, Osterhout Disability Law, LLC, & Edward C.
Olson, Disability Attorneys of Minnesota, (for Plaintiff);
Kizuwanda Curtis, Special Assistant United States Attorney,
N. Leung United States Magistrate Judge
Kimberly S. challenges Defendant Commissioner of Social
Security's denial of her application for supplemental
security income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381. The parties have
consented to a final judgment from the undersigned United
States Magistrate Judge in accordance with 28 U.S.C. §
636(c) and D. Minn. LR 7.2. This matter is before the Court
on the parties' cross motions for summary judgment. For
the reasons set forth below, the Court denies Plaintiff's
motion and grants Defendant's motion.
filed an action for SSI on October 27, 2014, alleging a
disability onset date of January 1, 2007. Plaintiff alleges
impairments of major depressive disorder/adjustment disorder,
anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, personality
disorder, a history of breast cancer, status post-mastectomy,
multilevel degenerative changes in the spine, degenerative
joint disease, and obesity. Plaintiff was found not disabled
on February 3, 2015. That finding was affirmed upon
reconsideration. Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge. A hearing was held on January 20,
2017 and, on March 1, 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 her request for review. Plaintiff now seeks review by
Administrative Hearing and ALJ Decision
ALJ found that Plaintiff had the severe impairments of major
depressive disorder/adjustment disorder, anxiety disorder,
post-traumatic stress disorder, personality disorder, a
history of breast cancer, status post-mastectomy, multilevel
degenerative changes in the spine, degenerative joint
disease, and obesity. (Tr. 13). The ALJ further found and
concluded that Plaintiff does not have an impairment or
combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Pt.
404.15, Subpt. P, App. 1. (Tr. 13-14). The ALJ considered
Listings 1.00Q (musculoskeletal impairment), 1.02 (major
dysfunction of a joint), 1.04 (disorders of the spine), 3.00I
(respiratory disorder), 4.00F (cardiovascular disorder),
12.04 (depressive, bipolar, and related disorders), 12.06
(anxiety and obsessive-compulsive disorders), 12.08
(personality and impulse-control disorders), 12.15 (trauma-
and stressor-related disorders), and 13.10 (breast cancer).
Following this, the ALJ found Plaintiff to have the residual
functioning capacity (“RFC”) to”
perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except no climbing of ladders,
ropes, or scaffolds, occasional climbing of ramps and stairs,
occasional stooping and crouching, no kneeling or crawling,
no tasks that would specifically require the act of balancing
for completion such as walking along a narrow plank or
something of that nature where the task would actually
require balancing for completion, no work at unprotected
heights or with hazards or hazardous machinery, occasional
overhead reaching bilaterally, routine, repetitive 3-4 step
tasks and instructions which are fixed and predictable from
day to day and would align with a specific vocational
preparation (SVP) of a one or two as defined in the
Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT), occasional
brief and superficial interaction with coworkers and the
public, and specifically these tasks would not require
collaboration or teamwork with coworkers and would not
require direct interaction with the public for completion,
and with respect to interaction with supervisors, the fifth
digit of the DOT code representing the people code would be
no less than an 8, as well as no strict production rate pace
involved in the performance of these tasks, such as on an
(Tr. 16-17). The ALJ then concluded Plaintiff had no past
relevant work, but that there were jobs that exist in
significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
could perform. (Tr. 26). In particular, the ALJ determined
that Plaintiff could work in visual inspection, as an
assembler (plastics), and as a bakery worker. (Tr. 27).
Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled
since January 1, 2007. (Tr. 27).
benefits are available to individuals who are determined to
be under a disability. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(a)(1)(E),
1381a; accord 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.315,
416.901. An individual is considered to be disabled if he or
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), 1382c(a)(3)(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 his or her previous work or
“any other kind of substantial gainful work which
exists in the national economy” when taking into
account his or her age, education, and work experience. 42
U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B); 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),
416.920(a)(4). The ALJ must consider 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)). In general, the burden of proving the existence
of disability lies with the claimant. Thomas v.
Sullivan, 928 F.2d 255, 260 (8th Cir. 1991); 20 C.F.R.
Court reviews whether the ALJ's decision is supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C.
§ 405(g); Boettcher v. Astrue, 652 F.3d 860,
863 (8th Cir. 2011) (citing Harris v. Barnhart, 356
F.3d 926, 928 (8th Cir. 2004)). “Substantial evidence
means less than a preponderance but enough that a reasonable
person would find it adequate to support the decision.”
Boettcher, 652 F.3d at 863 (citing Guilliams v.
Barnhart, 393 F.3d 798, 801 (8th Cir. 2005)). This
standard requires the Court to “consider the evidence
that both supports and detracts from the ALJ's
decision.” Perks v. Astrue, 687 F.3d 1086,
1091 (8th Cir. 2012) (citing Ellis v. Barnhart, 393
F.3d 988, 993 (8th Cir. 2005)).
ALJ's decision “will not [be] reverse[d] simply
because some evidence supports a conclusion other than that
reached by the ALJ.” Perks, 687 F.3d at 1091
(citing Pelkey v. Barnhart, 433 F.3d 575, 578 (8th
Cir. 2006)). “If, after reviewing the record, the court
finds it is possible to draw two inconsistent positions from
the evidence and one of those positions represents the
[ALJ's] findings, the court must affirm the [ALJ's]
decision.” Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d
1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001). In reviewing the record for
substantial evidence, the Court may not substitute its own
judgment or findings of fact for that of the ALJ.
Hilkemeyer v. Barnhart, 380 F.3d 441, 445 (8th Cir.
2004); Woolf v. Shalala, 3 F.3d 1210, 1213 (8th Cir.
1993). Likewise, courts “defer to the ALJ's
determinations regarding the credibility of testimony, so
long as they are supported by good reasons and substantial
evidence.” Pelkey, 433 F.3d at 578 (quotation
The ALJ's Consideration ...