Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

McDonald v. Berryhill

United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Central Division

September 7, 2017

RHONDA RAE McDONALD, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          C.J. Williams Chief United States Magistrate Judge.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The plaintiff, Rhonda Rae McDonald (claimant), seeks judicial review of a final decision of the Commissioner of Social Security (Commissioner) denying claimant's application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381-1385 (Act). For the reasons that follow, the Court affirms the Commissioner's decision.

         II. BACKGROUND

         For this background, the Court relied on the administrative record (AR) and the Joint Stipulation of Facts (Doc. 17). Claimant was born in 1954, and she was 58 years old at the time of the alleged onset of disability. (Doc. 17, at 1; AR 16).[1] Claimant had a high school education and past relevant work as a medical records clerk. (Doc. 17, at 1; AR 16).

         On September 3, 2013, claimant filed her application with an alleged onset date of June 4, 2013. (AR 8, 136-37). In 2014, the Commissioner denied claimant's application on initial consideration and again upon reconsideration. (AR 8, 82-85, 88-91). Following a hearing, on November 25, 2015, Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Henry Hamilton found claimant was not disabled. (AR 8-18). On October 7, 2016, the Appeals Council denied review. (AR 1-3). The ALJ's decision thus became the final decision of the Commissioner. Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000).

         On October 28, 2016, claimant filed a complaint in this Court seeking review of the Commissioner's decision. (Doc. 5). On November 17, 2016, with the consent of the parties, the Honorable Leonard T. Strand, Chief United States District Court Judge, transferred this case to a United States Magistrate Judge for final disposition and entry of judgment. (Doc. 9). Claimant filed her brief on May 9, 2017 (Doc. 18), and on June 7, 2017, the Commissioner filed her brief (Doc. 19). On June 21, 2017, this case was deemed fully briefed and ready for decision. (Doc. 20).

         III. DISABILITY DETERMINATIONS AND THE BURDEN OF PROOF

         A disability is defined as “the inability 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). An years old at the time. The Court finds the discrepancy immaterial because in either event claimant was defined as an individual of advanced age. individual has a disability when, due to his physical or mental impairments, he “is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists . . . in significant numbers either in the region where such individual lives or in several regions of the country.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(2)(A), 1382c(a)(3)(B). If the claimant is able to do work which exists in the national economy but is unemployed because of inability to get work, lack of opportunities in the local area, economic conditions, employer hiring practices, or other factors, the ALJ will still find the claimant not disabled.

         To determine whether a claimant has a disability within the meaning of the Act, the Commissioner follows the five-step sequential evaluation process outlined in the regulations. Kirby v. Astrue, 500 F.3d 705, 707-08 (8th Cir. 2007). First, the Commissioner will consider a claimant's work activity. If the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful activity, then the claimant is not disabled. “Substantial” work activity involves physical or mental activities. “Gainful” activity is work done for pay or profit, even if the claimant did not ultimately receive pay or profit.

         Second, if the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful activity, then the Commissioner looks to the severity of the claimant's physical and mental impairments. If the impairments are not severe, then the claimant is not disabled. An impairment is not severe if it does not significantly limit a claimant's physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities. Kirby, 500 F.3d at 707.

         The ability to do basic work activities means the ability and aptitude necessary to perform most jobs. These include: (1) physical functions such as walking, standing, sitting, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching, carrying, or handling; (2) capacities for seeing, hearing, and speaking; (3) understanding, carrying out, and remembering simple instructions; (4) use of judgment; (5) responding appropriately to supervision, co-workers, and usual work situations; and (6) dealing with changes in a routine work setting. Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 141 (1987); 20 C.F.R. § 416.921.

         Third, if the claimant has a severe impairment, then the Commissioner will determine the medical severity of the impairment. If the impairment meets or equals one of the presumptively disabling impairments listed in the regulations, then the claimant is considered disabled regardless of age, education, and work experience. Kelley v. Callahan, 133 F.3d 583, 588 (8th Cir. 1998).

         Fourth, if the claimant's impairment is severe, but it does not meet or equal one of the presumptively disabling impairments, then the Commissioner will assess the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC) and the demands of his past relevant work. If the claimant can still do his past relevant work, then he is considered not disabled. Past relevant work is any work the claimant performed within the past fifteen years of his application that was substantial gainful activity and lasted long enough for the claimant to learn how to do it. “RFC is a medical question defined wholly in terms of the claimant's physical ability to perform exertional tasks or, in other words, what the claimant can still do despite his or her physical or mental limitations.” Lewis v. Barnhart, 353 F.3d 642, 646 (8th Cir. 2003) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted). The RFC is based on all relevant medical and other evidence. The claimant is responsible for providing the evidence the Commissioner will use to determine the RFC. Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1069 n.5 (8th Cir. 2000). If a claimant retains enough RFC to perform past relevant work, then the claimant is not disabled.

         Fifth, if the claimant's RFC as determined in Step Four will not allow the claimant to perform past relevant work, then the burden shifts to the Commissioner to show there is other work the claimant can do, given the claimant's RFC, age, education, and work experience. The Commissioner must show not only that the claimant's RFC will allow him or her to make the adjustment to other work, but also that other work exists in significant numbers in the national economy. Eichelberger v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 584, 591 (8th Cir. 2004). If the claimant can make the adjustment, then the Commissioner will find the claimant not disabled. At Step Five, the Commissioner has the responsibility of developing the claimant's complete medical ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.