United States District Court, D. Minnesota
P. Reitan, (for Plaintiff); and
Michael Moss, Special Assistant United States Attorney, (for
N. Leung United States Magistrate Judge
Marlene M. brings the present case, contesting Defendant
Commissioner of Social Security's partially favorable
decision on her applications for disability insurance and
disabled widow's benefits under Title II of the Social
Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et seq., and
supplemental security income under Title XVI of the same, 42
U.S.C. § 1381 et seq. The parties have
consented to a final judgment from the undersigned United
States Magistrate Judge in accordance with 28 U.S.C. §
636(c), Fed.R.Civ.P. 73, and D. Minn. LR 72.1(c).
matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-motions
for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 14, 17.) Being duly advised
of all the files, records, and proceedings herein,
IT IS HEREBY ORDERED that
Plaintiff's motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 14) is
GRANTED IN PART and DENIED IN
PART; the Commissioner's motion for summary
judgment (ECF No. 17) is DENIED; and this
matter is remanded for further proceedings.
applied for benefits asserting that she has been disabled
since July 14, 2014 due to liver disease, diabetes,
depression, pain, and obesity. (Tr. 20, 90, 105, 121.)
Plaintiff's applications were denied initially and again
upon reconsideration. (Tr. 20, 87-89, 103, 118, 134, 154,
172, 190, 192-94.) Plaintiff then appealed by requesting a
hearing before an administrative law judge
(“ALJ”). (Tr. 20, 219.)
held a hearing in January 2017. (Tr. 20, 45, 47.) The ALJ
issued a partially favorable decision, finding and concluding
that Plaintiff became disabled on September 4, 2016. (Tr.
32.) Plaintiff subsequently requested review from the Appeals
Council, which denied her request for review. (Tr. 1-5.)
Plaintiff then filed the instant action, challenging the
ALJ's decision. (Compl., ECF No. 1.) The parties have
filed cross motions for summary judgment. (ECF Nos. 14, 17.)
This matter is now fully briefed and ready for a
determination on the papers.
Court reviews whether the ALJ's decision is supported by
substantial evidence in the record as a whole. Boettcher
v. Astrue, 652 F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2011).
“Substantial evidence means less than a preponderance
but enough that a reasonable person would find it adequate to
support the decision.” Id. This standard
requires the Court to “consider both evidence that
detracts from the [ALJ's] decision and evidence that
supports it.” Id. The ALJ's decision
“will not [be] reverse[d] simply because some evidence
supports a conclusion other than that reached by the
ALJ.” Perks v. Astrue, 687 F.3d 1086, 1091
(8th Cir. 2012). “The court must affirm the [ALJ's]
decision if it is supported by substantial evidence on the
record as a whole.” Chaney v. Colvin, 812 F.3d
672, 676 (8th Cir. 2016) (quotation omitted). Thus,
“[i]f, 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.” Perks, 687 F.3d at 1091 (quotation
omitted); accord Chaney, 812 F.3d at 676.
benefits are available to individuals who are determined to
be under a disability. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(a)(1),
1381a; accord 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.315,
416.901. An individual is considered to be 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); accord 42 U.S.C. §
1382c(a)(3)(A); see also 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1505(a), 416.905(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);
accord 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B); see
also 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1505(a), 416.905(a).
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). In general, the burden of proving the existence of
disability lies with the claimant. 20 C.F.R. §§
Residual Functional Capacity
sole issue in this case is the weight accorded to the opinion
evidence regarding Plaintiff's ability to perform the
physical exertional requirements of light work. A claimant's
“residual functional capacity is the most [she] can do
despite [her] limitations.” 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a)(1); accord 20 C.F.R. §
416.945(a)(1); see McCoy v. Astrue, 648 F.3d 605,
614 (8th Cir. 2011) (“A claimant's [residual
functional capacity] represents the most he can do despite
the combined effects of all of his credible limitations and
must be based on all credible evidence.”).
“Because a claimant's [residual functional
capacity] is a medical question, an ALJ's assessment of
it must be supported by some medical evidence of the
claimant's ability to function in the workplace.”
Perks, 687 F.3d at 1092 (quotation omitted).
“Medical records, physician observations, and the
claimant's subjective statements about h[er] capabilities
may be used to support the [residual functional
capacity].” Id. “Even though the
[residual-functional-capacity] assessment draws from medical
sources for support, it is ultimately an administrative
determination reserved to the Commissioner.”
Id. (quotation omitted); see 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1546(c), 416.946(c).
Physical Exertional Requirements: Light & Sedentary
[l]ight work involves lifting no more than 20 pounds at a
time with frequent lifting or carrying of objects weighing up
to 10 pounds. Even though the weight lifted may be very
little, a job is in this category when it requires a good
deal of walking or standing, or when it involves sitting most
of the time with some pushing and pulling of arm or leg
controls. To be considered capable of performing a full or
wide range of light work, you must have the ability to do
substantially all of these activities.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b); accord 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.967(b) (same).
under the regulations,
[s]edentary work involves lifting no more than 10 pounds at a
time and occasionally lifting or carrying articles like
docket files, ledgers, and small tools. Although a sedentary
job is defined as one which involves sitting, a certain
amount of walking and standing is often necessary in carrying
out job duties. Jobs are sedentary if walking and standing
are required occasionally and other sedentary criteria are
20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(a); accord 20 C.F.R.
§ 416.67(a) (same).