United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Angela M. Plaintiff,
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
E. RAU, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), Plaintiff seeks review of the
Acting Commissioner of Social Security's (the
“Commissioner”) denial of her application for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”). (ECF No.
4). The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment.
(ECF Nos. 15, 17). For the reasons set forth below, the Court
denies Plaintiff's motion and grants the
filed for DIB on June 11, 2014, citing an alleged onset date
of October 26, 2013. (Admin. R. at 98, 112, 117, ECF No. 14).
Plaintiff alleged disability due to impairments of obesity,
generalized anxiety with elements of panic, sleep apnea,
carotid artery dissection, chronic headaches and migraines,
fibromyalgia, Reynaud's disease, anemia, chronic
subjective dizziness, restless leg syndrome, vasovagal
syncope episodes, somatization disorder, irritable bowel
syndrome, acid reflux, ADHD, major depressive order, and
residual traumatic stress. (Admin. R. at 98-99, 102, 112-13).
Plaintiff's claims were denied initially and upon
reconsideration. (Admin. R. at 3, 12). Following a hearing,
the administrative law judge (the “ALJ”) denied
benefits to Plaintiff on March 29, 2017. (Admin. R. at 25).
The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review, rendering the ALJ's decision final. (Admin. R. at
7). Plaintiff then initiated the instant lawsuit. (ECF No.
Court reviewed the entire Administrative Record but
summarizes only the evidence necessary to determine the
issues before the Court.
has a long history of migraine headaches, beginning from age
sixteen. (Admin. R. at 690). In March 1991, she underwent a
resection of the left C1 lesion which proved to be a
schwannoma. (Admin. R. at 690). Between 1991 and 2015,
Plaintiff had difficulty controlling her migraines and was on
a variety of medications. (Admin. R. at 690). In June 2010, the
headache pattern changed and was associated with light and
noise sensitivity as well as nausea. (Admin. R. at 690). She
tried different medications but her headaches persisted.
(Admin. R. at 690). In September 2010, Plaintiff's
neurological exam showed right Horner syndrome but was
otherwise normal. (Admin. R. at 690). In January 2011, her
condition improved as she had three or four headaches per
month instead of a daily, continuous headache. (Admin. R. at
691). By May 2011, her headaches were under reasonably good
control. (Admin. R. at 691).
September 2011, Plaintiff's headaches became more severe.
(Admin. R. at 691). She had one headache lasting three days
that caused her to take nine days off work and school.
(Admin. R. at 691). She had an MRI and MRA of her head in the
emergency room but neither showed any abnormalities. (Admin.
R. at 691). In October 2011, she was experiencing a
“continuous daily ‘dull headache'” with
cervical and trapezius muscle pain. (Admin. R. at 691). Her
neurological exam was normal and her doctor noted “good
strength and reflexes, ” a normal gait, normal sensory
exam, no muscle tenderness, but “limited volitional
motor mobility of her neck and tenderness in both trapezius
muscles.” (Admin. R. at 691). Plaintiff's doctor
recommended a physiatrist. (Admin. R. at 691).
January 2012, Plaintiff continued to have neck pain radiating
into her trapezius muscles and experienced pain in her right
thigh and arm. (Admin. R. at 691). She also experienced
imbalance and disequilibrium. (Admin. R. at 691). She had a
normal neurological exam, aside from the partial right Horner
syndrome which was long-standing. (Admin. R. at 691).
Plaintiff's doctor noted “multiple tender points in
the cervical and lumbar paraspinal muscles as well as the
limbs.” (Admin. R. at 691). Her doctor recommended a
visit to a fibromyalgia clinic along with a visit to a
vestibular lab and a behavioral psychology clinic. (Admin. R.
at 691). Plaintiff visited a vestibular lab, had a normal
vestibular evaluation, and participated in vestibular rehab
which she found helpful. (Admin. R. at 691-92). She also went
to the Fibromyalgia Clinic but there are no notes on whether
that was helpful. (See Admin. R. at 692).
August 2012, Plaintiff was “virtually
headache-free.” (Admin. R. at 692). In March 2013, she
had a particularly severe headache. (Admin. R. at 692). In
May 2013, Plaintiff experienced daily headaches again but her
neurological exam was normal. (Admin. R. at 692).
October of 2014, Plaintiff went to the doctor with complaints
of a headache after fainting. (Admin. R. at 506-07). In the
same month, she also had a CT scan of her head which did not
show any hemorrhage, lesion, or infarction and only reflected
changes from her earlier craniotomy. (Admin. R. at 520).
Similarly, Plaintiff had an MRI scan of her head showing no
acute intracranial abnormality. (Admin. R. at 405-09).
Plaintiff's doctor recommended Botox injections to help
with the headaches but Plaintiff testified she declined to
try the Botox because the injections seemed
“riskier.” (Admin. R. at 51-52, 496, 516).
February 2015, she had a normal neurological exam but
continued to have headaches. (Admin. R. at 692). Plaintiff
fell behind in her college courses because of her headaches.
(Admin. R. at 692). In September of 2016, Plaintiff
experienced headaches three to five days a week, which caused
her to miss work as a receptionist. (Admin. R. at 692).
Plaintiff's Medical Providers
Beithon was Plaintiff's primary care physician and opined
Plaintiff's impairments, including Plaintiff's
headaches and other physical ailments, would preclude her
from performing basic work activities and would require
unscheduled breaks during an eight-hour day. (Admin. R. at
338). Dr. Beithon also opined Plaintiff would miss four or
more workdays a month and would likely be off task for 25% of
the time or more. (Admin. R. at 339).
Little was one of Plaintiff's therapists and treated her
between 2009 and 2014. (Admin. R. at 452). He opined
Plaintiff was unable to meet competitive standards and had no
useful ability to function on most mental abilities and
aptitudes needed to work. (Admin. R. at 454-55). Little
stated Plaintiff could only handle simple tasks in short
segments and noted a number of physical symptoms in his
findings such as fibromyalgia pain and frequent,
incapacitating pain. (Admin. R. at 455-56). Little reported
Plaintiff had problems managing daily routines and fell
behind in her college classes because of her anxiety and
mental state. (Admin. R. at 457-59). Little opined Plaintiff
would miss more than four days a month of work because of her
physical and mental impairments. (Admin. R. at 456).
Baumchen, another therapist, evaluated Plaintiff for
psychological difficulties and depression. (Admin. R. at
747). In a December 2013 report, he stated Plaintiff had
severe depression, signs of emotional distress, poor
concentration, post- traumatic stress nightmares and
flashbacks, difficulties in concentration and attention,
negative expectations, and confusion. (Admin. R. at 747-52).
Walsh, a licensed social worker, also saw Plaintiff for
mental health treatment. (Admin. R. at 755-59). Walsh opined
that Plaintiff did not have the limited abilities or
aptitudes necessary for unskilled or skilled work. (Admin. R.
at 757-58). Walsh stated Plaintiff would miss more than four
days of work per month because of her impairments. (Admin. R.