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Kimberly S. v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 14, 2019

Kimberly S., Plaintiff,
v.
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          Karl E. Osterhout, Osterhout Disability Law, LLC, & Edward C. Olson, Disability Attorneys of Minnesota, (for Plaintiff); and

          Kizuwanda Curtis, Special Assistant United States Attorney, (for Defendant).

          ORDER

          Tony N. Leung United States Magistrate Judge

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Plaintiff 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.[1] 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.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff 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 this Court.

         B. Administrative Hearing and ALJ Decision

          The 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 assembly line.

(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).

         III. ANALYSIS

         A. Legal Standard

         Disability 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. § 404.1512(a);

         This 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)).

         The 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 omitted).

         B. The ALJ's Consideration ...


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