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Carlson v. Astrue

May 10, 2010

JUSTAN CARLSON, APPELLANT,
v.
MICHAEL J. ASTRUE, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SECURITY, APPELLEE.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Iowa.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colloton, Circuit Judge.

Submitted: October 22, 2009

Before COLLOTON and BENTON, Circuit Judges, and PIERSOL,*fn1 District Judge.

Justan Carlson appeals the judgment of the district court*fn2 upholding the Commissioner of Social Security's denial of Carlson's application for supplemental security income. We affirm.

I.

Justan Carlson applied for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 423, and for supplemental security income under Title XVI of that Act, id. § 1382,claiming a disability onset date of March 20, 2004. Carlson's disability claims were based on his low body weight and diabetes with neuropathy in his feet.

Carlson has had diabetes mellitus since he was seventeen years old. He was twice admitted to the hospital with diabetic ketoacidosis. During the first hospitalization on May 17, 2003, doctors assessed Carlson as having diabetic ketoacidosis, dehydration, and protracted nausea and vomiting. Approximately nine months later, on February 10, 2004, Carlson was again admitted to the hospital with nausea and vomiting. Carlson was diagnosed with "[d]iabetic ketoacidosis with a mixed metabolic acidosis and a metabolic alkalosis from vomiting." (A.R. 168).

Carlson's medical records also track his low body weight. These records show that Carlson's weight was 134 pounds on April 19, 2004, fell to as low as 123.8 and 123.4 pounds in September and October 2004, respectively, and increased to 136 pounds and 141 pounds in June and July 2005, respectively.

The Social Security Administration ("SSA") denied Carlson's claims after initial review. After Carlson sought reconsideration, Dr. Lawrence Staples, a state agency medical consultant, reviewed Carlson's case. Dr. Staples considered whether Carlson met Listing 5.08,*fn3 weight loss due to any persisting gastrointestinal disorder, and Listing 9.08, diabetes mellitus. He determined that Carlson did not meet either listing. After this review, the SSA denied Carlson's claims again.

Carlson then filed a request for hearing by an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). After a hearing at which Carlson was represented by counsel, the ALJ determined that Carlson was not entitled to disability insurance benefits or supplemental security income because he was not disabled. With respect to disability insurance benefits, the ALJ concluded alternatively that Carlson was ineligible because he was no longer insured under Title II of the Social Security Act as of his alleged disability onset date. The Appeals Council denied Carlson's request for review, thus making the ALJ's opinion the final decision of the Commissioner.

In determining that Carlson was not disabled, the ALJ used the familiar five-step disability evaluation process outlined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.920. See, e.g., Eichelberger v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 584, 590-91 (8th Cir. 2004). At steps one and two, the ALJ concluded that Carlson had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since the alleged disability onset date, and that Carlson's diabetes mellitus, peripheral neuropathy, and lower extremity pain were severe impairments. At step three, the ALJ determined that Carlson's impairments did not meet or medically equal an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. Like Dr. Staples, the ALJ explicitly considered Listing 5.08 and Listing 9.08, and concluded that Carlson did not meet or equal those two listings.

After considering Carlson's residual functional capacity ("RFC") at step four, the ALJ found that it was feasible for Carlson to perform his past job as a telephone solicitor. Finally, at step five, the ALJ found that Carlson could perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy. Based on these conclusions, the ALJ ultimately determined that Carlson was not disabled.

The district court upheld the ALJ's decision. Carlson now appeals only the denial of his claim for supplemental security income, arguing that the record does not support ...


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