United States District Court, N.D. Iowa, Cedar Rapids Division
KARI L. LANDUYT, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION
K.E. Mahoney United States Magistrate Judge
Kari L. Landuyt, seeks judicial review of a final decision of
the Commissioner of Social Security (the Commissioner)
denying her application for disability insurance (DI)
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401-434. Landuyt argues that the administrative
law judge (ALJ), Julie K. Bruntz, erred by failing to find
Landuyt's fibromyalgia constitutes a severe impairment,
in assigning weight to her treating physician's opinions,
and by failing to order a consultative examination. I
recommend affirming the ALJ's decision.
filed an application for DI benefits on June 17, 2013,
alleging disability as of May 11, 2012, based on severe
osteoarthritis in her back, numbness and tingling in her feet
and hands, tight hip and thigh muscles, grinding and clicking
in her knees, fatigue, heart arrhythmia, and balance issues.
AR 84-85. Her application was denied initially in August 2013
and on reconsideration in November 2013. AR 84-95, 96-110. As
part of those reviews, state agency consultants from the Iowa
Disability Determination Service (DDS) evaluated
Landuyt's physical residual functional
capacity (RFC), and assessments were completed by
Tracey Larrison, D.O., in August 2013, and by John May, M.D.,
in November 2013. AR 91-93, 105-08.
requested a hearing before an ALJ, and after a continuance on
June 16, 2015, to allow Landuyt to obtain representation, a
video hearing was held on October 27, 2015. AR 13, 28-33.
Landuyt was 40 years old at the onset of her alleged
disability and 44 years old at the time of her administrative
hearing. AR 33, 38, 85. On December 8, 2015, the ALJ issued a
written opinion, following the familiar five-step process
outlined in the regulations for determining whether Landuyt
was disabled. AR 9-21.
found that Landuyt suffered from severe
impairments of disorders of the back, cardiac
dysrhythmia, and myofascial pain syndrome but that none of
Landuyt's impairments met or equaled applicable listings.
AR 14-15. To determine whether Landuyt's impairments
prevented her from working, the ALJ determined:
[Landuyt] has the [RFC] to perform light work . . . such that
she can lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds
frequently. She could stand and walk for six hours in an
eight-hour workday and sit for six hours in an eight-hour
workday. Her ability to push and pull, including the
operation of hand and foot controls, would be unlimited
within those weights. She is right-hand dominant. She could
occasionally climb ramps and stairs, as well as occasionally
balance, stoop, kneel, and crouch. She could never climb
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, and never crawl. She would need
to avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold, fumes, odors,
gases, poor ventilation, dust, and wetness.
evaluating Landuyt's RFC, the ALJ considered
Landuyt's statements about her symptoms (which the ALJ
did not fully credit), statements from Landuyt's husband
and several friends, medical treatment records, and the July
2015 medical source statement from Landuyt's family
physician, Clete Younger, M.D. (to which the ALJ gave little
overall weight). AR 16-20, 714-19. Based on her determination
of Landuyt's RFC, the ALJ found that Landuyt could
perform her past relevant work as a teller and ticket seller.
Appeals Council denied Landuyt's request for review on
January 11, 2017 (AR 1-4), making the ALJ's decision that
Landuyt was not disabled the final decision of the
Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. § 404.981. The
Appeals Council admitted additional medical records from Dr.
Younger (from November 13, 2015, through March 4, 2016) and
an additional medical source statement from Dr. Younger (this
one specifically for fibromyalgia) dated March 9, 2016, into
the record. AR 5, 766-785. Landuyt filed a timely complaint
in this court (Doc. 3). See 20 C.F.R. §
422.210(c). The parties briefed the issues (Docs. 13, 14),
and the Honorable Leonard T. Strand, Chief Judge of the
United States District Court for the Northern District of
Iowa, referred this case to me for a Report and
must affirm the ALJ's decision if it “is supported
by substantial evidence in the record as a whole.”
Kirby v. Astrue, 500 F.3d 705, 707 (8th Cir. 2007);
see also 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). “Substantial
evidence is less than a preponderance, but enough that a
reasonable mind might accept it as adequate to support a
decision.” Kirby, 500 F.3d at 707. The court
“do[es] not reweigh the evidence or review the factual
record de novo.” Naber v. Shalala, 22 F.3d
186, 188 (8th Cir. 1994). If, after reviewing the evidence,
“it is possible to draw two inconsistent positions from
the evidence and one of those positions represents the
[ALJ's] findings, [the court] must affirm the
decision.” Robinson v. Sullivan, 956 F.2d 836,
838 (8th Cir. 1992).
argues that the ALJ erred in three ways: (1) failing to find
Landuyt's fibromyalgia was a severe impairment; (2)
attributing weight to Dr. Younger's treating-source
opinion; and (3) failing to order a consultative examination.
See Doc. 13. I will address each of these arguments
Fibromyalgia as a Severe Impairment
erred, according to Landuyt, by failing to find that her
fibromyalgia was a severe impairment, which she further
argues affected the weight the ALJ assigned to Dr.
Younger's treating source statement. Doc. 13 at 4.
A “severe impairment is defined as one which
‘significantly limits [the claimant's] physical or
mental ability to do basic work activities.'” The
impairment “must result from anatomical, physiological,
or psychological abnormalities which can be shown by
medically acceptable clinical and laboratory diagnostic
techniques. A physical or mental impairment must be
established by medical evidence consisting of signs,
symptoms, and ...