United States District Court, D. Minnesota
Katherine Menendez, United States Magistrate Judge
matter is before the Court on the parties' cross-motions
for summary judgment. (Pl.'s Mot. for Summ. J.
(“Pl.'s Mot.”), ECF No. 18; Def.'s Mot.
for Summ. J. (“Def.'s Mot.”), ECF No. 21.)
For the reasons set forth below, the Court finds that Kellie
Ann C.'s (hereafter “Ms. C.”) motion for
summary judgment be DENIED and the Commissioner's motion
for summary judgment be GRANTED.
Factual Background and ALJ Decision
first filed for supplemental security income and disability
insurance benefits on April 15, 2015. (R. 12.) Her claims
were denied initially and upon reconsideration.
(Id.) She timely requested a hearing before
Administrative Law Judge Micah Pharris, which was held on
March 28, 2018. (Id.) On May 30, 2018, ALJ Pharris
issued an unfavorable decision. (R. 12-28.)
ALJ Pharris's Decision
Thomas followed the five-step sequential evaluation process
for determining whether Ms. C. is disabled. At step one, he
determined that Ms. C. has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since December 31, 2013. (R. 14.) At step two, he
determined that Ms. C. has several severe impairments:
diabetes, migraine headaches, chronic fatigue, obesity, right
carpal tunnel syndrome, mild degenerative disc disease of the
cervical and thoracic spine, cognitive disorder not otherwise
specified, major depressive disorder, and generalized anxiety
disorder. (R. 15.)
Pharris specifically discussed Ms. C.'s fibromyalgia,
which he found was not a medically determinable impairment.
He explained “[i]n addition to a physician's
diagnosis of fibromyalgia, in order to establish a medically
determinable impairment, the medical records must contain
evidence that supports the diagnosis.” (Id.)
He noted that SSR 12-2p describes one way that medical
evidence could support a finding that fibromyalgia was a
medically determinable impairment:
First, Section II(A) states fibromyalgia is established as a
medically determinable impairment if the individual has all
three of the following: (1) a history of widespread pain (in
all quadrants of the body) that has persisted for at least
three months (the pain may fluctuate in intensity and may not
always be present); (2) at least eleven positive tender
points on physical examinations found bilaterally (on the
left and right sides of the body, both above and below the
waist); and (3) evidence that other disorders that could
cause the symptoms or signs were excluded, as other physical
and mental disorders may have symptoms or signs which are the
same or similar to those resulting from fibromyalgia.
(Id.) ALJ Pharris then went on to explain that the
medical record did not support a finding of fibromyalgia as a
medically determinable impairment. He noted that Ms. C.
received her March 2016 diagnosis for fibromyalgia from Dr.
Mary Beran without examination of any tender points. (R. 15.)
The other references to fibromyalgia in the medical record
only call it “presumed” fibromyalgia, without
additional diagnostic examinations. (Id.) In one
record that ALJ Pharris highlights, a rheumatologist noted
that Ms. C. did not have “adequate tender points”
for a fibromyalgia diagnosis. (R. 666.)
Pharris next found that none of Ms. C.'s impairments or
any combination of her impairments met or medically equaled
the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part
404 Subpart P, Appendix 1. Finally, ALJ Pharris found that
Ms. C. has the residual functional capacity to perform medium
work with some limitations, including frequently handling and
fingering with the right hand, and being limited to
“simple routine tasks” with “occasional
superficial [(rated no lower than an 8)] contact with
supervisors, coworkers, and members of the public.” (R.
at 19.) ALJ Pharris determined that Ms. C. was unable to
perform her past relevant work, but that there were other
jobs in significant numbers in the national economy that she
could perform, such as industrial cleaner, laundry worker,
and counter supply worker. (R. 27.)
challenges the ALJ's determination on three separate
grounds. First, she argues that ALJ Pharris failed to
consider the proper criteria when he determined that her
fibromyalgia is not a medically determinable impairment.
Second, Ms. C. argues that ALJ Pharris did not properly
analyze the medical opinion evidence in the record. Finally,
she asserts that the ALJ failed to consider her
“stellar work history” when he assessed her
credibility. After careful review, the Court determines that
summary judgment in favor of the Commissioner is appropriate.
reviewing the Commissioner's denial of Ms. C.'s
application for benefits the Court determines whether the
decision is supported by “substantial evidence on the
record as a whole” and whether it results from an error
of law. Gann v. Berryhill, 864 F.3d 947, 950 (8th
Cir. 2017); Miller v. Colvin, 784 F.3d 472, 477 (8th
Cir. 2015); see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
“Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance of
the evidence, but is such relevant evidence as a reasonable
mind would find adequate to support the Commissioner's
conclusion.” Blackburn v. Colvin, 761 F.3d
853, 858 (8th Cir. 2014) (internal citations and quotation
marks omitted). The Court considers not only the evidence
supporting the Commissioner's decision, but also the
evidence in the record that “fairly detracts”
from that decision. See Halverson v. Astrue, 600
F.3d 922, 929 (8th Cir. 2010). However, the Court does not
reverse the Commissioner's decision merely because
substantial evidence also supports a contrary outcome or
because the record might support a different conclusion.
Gann, 864 F.3d at 950. The Court should reverse the
Commissioner's decision only where it ...