United States District Court, D. Nebraska
RILEY Q. LINDEN, Plaintiff,
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
M. Gerrard United States District Judge.
matter is before the Court on the denial, initially and upon
reconsideration, of the plaintiff Riley Linden's
application for disability insurance benefits under Title II
of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401 et
seq. and supplemental social security income benefits
under Title XVI of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381 et
seq. The Court has considered the parties' filings
and the administrative record. For the reasons discussed
below, the Commissioner's decision is reversed and
remanded for further proceedings consistent with this order.
applied for disability insurance benefits on May 2, 2012.
T165-178. His claim was denied initially on July 31, and upon
reconsideration on November 9. T57-58, 81-82. Linden appealed
and requested a hearing from an administrative law judge
(ALJ). T27-30. The ALJ held a hearing on March 28, 2014. T31.
In a decision dated April 18, the ALJ found that Linden was
not disabled as defined under 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i)
or 423(d), and therefore not entitled to benefits. T19-21.
for purposes of the Social Security Act, 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. §§ 416(i)
determine whether a claimant is entitled to disability
benefits, the ALJ performs a five-step sequential analysis.
20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4). At step one, the claimant
has the burden to establish that he has not engaged in
substantial gainful activity since his alleged disability
onset date. Cuthrell v. Astrue, 702 F.3d 1114, 1116
(8th Cir. 2013). If the claimant has engaged in substantial
gainful activity, he will be found not to be disabled;
otherwise, at step two, he has the burden to prove he has a
medically determinable physical or mental impairment or
combination of impairments that significantly limits his
physical or mental ability to perform basic work activities.
three, if the claimant shows that his impairment meets or
equals a presumptively disabling impairment listed in the
regulations, he is automatically found disabled and is
entitled to benefits. Id. Otherwise, the analysis
proceeds to step four. But first, the ALJ must determine the
claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC), which is
used at steps four and five. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4).
A claimant's RFC is what he can do despite the
limitations caused by any mental or physical impairments.
Toland v. Colvin, 761 F.3d 931, 935 (8th Cir. 2014).
At step four, the claimant has the burden to prove he lacks
the RFC to perform his past relevant work. Cuthrell,
702 F.3d at 1116. If the claimant can still do his past
relevant work, he will be found not to be disabled;
otherwise, at step five, the burden shifts to the
Commissioner to prove, considering the claimant's RFC,
age, education, and work experience, that there are other
jobs in the national economy the claimant can perform.
Id.; Jones v. Astrue, 619 F.3d 963, 971
(8th Cir. 2010).
alleged disability as a result of Type II diabetes mellitus,
chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), bilateral knee
osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, and post-L4/S1
fusion. T262. He also reports experiencing post-traumatic
stress disorder, personality disorder, rule-out narcissistic
personality disorder, and alcohol abuse in full remission,
although these do not appear to have been advanced to the
Commissioner as a basis for disability. T262. He alleges an
onset date of October 15, 2010. T165, 172. At that time,
Linden was 51 years old. T165. The ALJ found that, based on
his earnings record, Linden could remain insured through
December 31, 2015. T10. So, the question for the ALJ was
whether Linden had demonstrated a disability for some period
of not less than 12 months between October 10, 2010 and March
one, the ALJ found that Linden had not engaged in substantial
gainful activity following his alleged onset date. T12. Next,
at step two, the ALJ found that Linden had several severe
impairments: postL4/S1 fusion, degenerative disc disease,
bilateral knee osteoarthritis, COPD, and type II diabetes
mellitus. T12. At step three, the ALJ found that Linden had
no impairment that met or medically equaled a listed
impairment. T14. The ALJ then determined that Linden had the
perform medium work . . . as he can lift/carry 25 pounds
frequently and 50 pounds occasionally; sit, stand, and walk 6
hours each in an 8-hour workday; and push/pull within the
weight limits. He can occasionally climb ramps and stairs,
but cannot climb ladders and scaffolds. He cannot have
concentrated exposure to pulmonary irritants. He cannot work
at unprotected heights or with vibrating tools.
T14-15. Because the ALJ's RFC finding is the critical
issue in this appeal, the Court will examine the ALJ's
underlying reasoning in more detail.
found that Linden had made inconsistent or unsupported
statements concerning his functional abilities, that
diminished his credibility. T16. The ALJ also noted a history
of medical non-compliance. T17. And, the ALJ noted, although
Linden "complains of significant back pain and other
musculoskeletal symptoms, the evidence shows that he sought
treatment only at the emergency room and with his primary
care providers, but ...