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Camie P. v. Berryhill

United States District Court, D. Minnesota

June 27, 2019

Camie P., Plaintiff,
Nancy A. Berryhill, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff Camie P.'s (“Plaintiff”) Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 12) and Defendant Acting Commissioner of Social Security Nancy A. Berryhill's (“Defendant”) Motion for Summary Judgment (Dkt. No. 14). Plaintiff filed this case seeking judicial review of a final decision by Defendant denying her application for disability insurance benefits. For the reasons stated below, Plaintiff's Motion is denied, and Defendant's Cross-Motion is granted.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiff filed a Title II application for disability insurance benefits on May 4, 2015, alleging disability beginning on April 24, 2015. (R. 175-88.)[1] Plaintiff claimed she was disabled due to her hypertension, osteoarthritis, myofascial pain syndrome, dysthymic disorder, anxiety disorder, and two hip replacements. (R. 79.) Her application was denied initially and on reconsideration. (R. 107-10, 112-14.) On May 5, 2017, Plaintiff amended her alleged disability onset date to January 13, 2017. (R. 222.) Plaintiff requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”), which was held on May 5, 2017 before ALJ Michael N. Balter. (R. 11-15.) The ALJ issued an unfavorable decision on July 3, 2017, finding that Plaintiff was not disabled. (R. 25.)

         Following the five-step sequential evaluation process under 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a), [2] the ALJ first determined at step one that Plaintiff had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 13, 2017. (R. 17.)

         At step two, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff had the following severe impairments: degenerative joint disease in both knees and both hips; residuals of bilateral total hip arthroplasties and total knee arthroplasties; and myofascial pain syndrome. (R. 18.) The ALJ also determined that Plaintiff's “medically determinable mental impairment of depression does not cause more than minimal limitation in the claimant's ability to perform basic mental work activities and is therefore nonsevere.” (R. 18.)

         At the third step, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff did not have an impairment that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. part 404, subpart P, appendix 1. (R. 19.)

         At step four, after reviewing the entire record, the ALJ concluded that Plaintiff had the following residual functional capacity (“RFC”):

[T]o perform work sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(a) except the claimant must be allowed a 1 to 2 minute period of position change after 30 minutes of continuous sitting,

(R. 19.)

         The ALJ concluded that based on the above RFC, Plaintiff was capable of performing past relevant work as a substance abuse counselor. (R. 24.) Accordingly, the ALJ deemed Plaintiff not disabled. (R. 25.)

         Plaintiff requested review of the decision. (R. 7.) The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review, which made the ALJ's decision the final decision of the Commissioner. (R. 1-3.) Plaintiff then commenced this action for judicial review.

         On June 10, 2019, Plaintiff filed an Amended Request for Relief. (Dkt. No. 17; Dkt. No. 17-1.) In her amended request, Plaintiff notified the Court of the Commissioner's decision to approve her claim for disability benefits on reapplication with an onset date of disability of July 4, 2017, the day after ALJ issued his decision. (Id.) Plaintiff amended her request for relief and asks that any remand order issued by the Court relate specifically to whether she is entitled to a period of disability and disability benefits beginning on her amended alleged onset date of January 13, 2017 and closing on July 3, 2017, the day prior to her July 4, 2017 onset of disability as found by the Commissioner as part of her re-application claim. The Commissioner agrees that this Court's review is limited to the period between January 13, 2017, Plaintiff's amended alleged onset date, and July 3, 2017, the date of the ALJ's decision. (Dkt. No. 18.)

         The Court has reviewed the entire administrative record, giving particular attention to the facts and records cited by the parties. The Court will recount the facts of record only to the extent they are helpful for context or necessary for resolution of the specific issues presented in the parties' motions.


         Throughout 2014 and 2015, Plaintiff had been diagnosed and treated for anxiety. (See, e.g., R. ...

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