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Michael S. v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

March 28, 2019

Michael S., Plaintiff,
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

          Bahram Samie & Tracey Wirmani, Assistant United States Attorneys, United States Attorney (for Defendant).


          Tony N. Leung United States Magistrate Judge


         Plaintiff Michael S. challenges Defendant Commissioner of Social Security's denial of his 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.


         A. Procedural History

         Plaintiff filed an action for SSI on April 21, 2014, alleging a disability onset date of the same day. Plaintiff alleges impairments of: anti-social personality disorder, bi-polar disorder, borderline intellectual functioning, anxiety, and sleep apnea. Plaintiff was found not disabled on September 16, 2014. That finding was affirmed upon reconsideration. Plaintiff then requested a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”). A hearing was held on December 7, 2016 and, on January 6, 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 his 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: anti-social personality disorder, bipolar/cyclothymic disorder, and borderline intellectual functioning. (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, subpt. P, app. 1. (Tr. 13-14). The ALJ considered Listings 12.02 (neurocognitive disorders), 12.04 (depressive, bipolar, and related disorders), and 12.08 (personality and impulse control disorders). (Tr. 13-14). Following this, the ALJ found Plaintiff to have the residual functioning capacity (“RFC”) to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels, but with the following non-exertional limitations:

moderate noise level; limited to performing simple, routine and repetitive tasks and using judgment is limited to simple worker related decisions; contacts with coworkers, supervisors, and the general public would be brief and superficial such that work is rated no lower than 8 on people scale of appendix B to Dictionary of Occupational titles, 1991 revised edition; work could be learned in one month; and performance of job duties in ordinary course would not provide ready access to alcohol or controlled substances.

(Tr. 15). The ALJ then concluded Plaintiff had no past relevant work, but that there were jobs that existed in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff could perform. (Tr. 22-23). In particular, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff could work as a general cleaner, kitchen helper, and night cleaner. (Tr. 23). Accordingly, the ALJ found that Plaintiff was not disabled since April 21, 2014. (Tr. 23).

         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 ‚Äúconsider the evidence that both supports and ...

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