December 4, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Wisconsin. No. 2:15-cv-01393-WCG -William C.
Griesbach, Chief Judge.
Bauer, Kanne, and Brennan, Circuit Judges.
Burmester applied for disability insurance benefits claiming
she was unable to work due to physical impairments affecting
her joints, chronic pain, and poor mental health. The Social
Security Administration ("SSA") denied her
application. Burmester appeals the decision of the ALJ that
held she was not disabled and the district court opinion
affirming the ALJ's denial of benefits. For the following
reasons, we agree with the district court and affirm.
December 20, 2010, Burmester applied for disability benefits
alleging a June 26, 2008, onset of her disability. She
claimed her ability to work was limited by degenerative disc
disease, pseudo-gout in her left knee, osteoarthritis in both
knees and left thumb, a heart condition, and depression. The
application was denied on May 11, 2011, and on October 3,
2011. Burmester requested a hearing.
December 10, 2012, ALJ Patrick Morrison conducted a hearing.
Burmester testified that she lived in a townhouse with her
husband, and had completed high school and one year of
technical college. She worked as a hand packager for the
manufacturing company Briggs & Stratton for many years.
She was employed as a part-time attendant at the Bradley
Center, an arena located in Milwaukee. Her job duties
included checking the validity of tickets and directing event
goers to their seats.
amended the onset date of her disability to September 1,
2009. When asked to rank her impairments by severity, she
listed back spasms, rheumatoid arthritis in her hands and
feet, knee pain, and fibromyalgia as her most limiting
conditions. The ALJ also noted that Burmester had
chondromalacia (also known as "runner's knee"),
gout, and right shoulder issues. Burmester testified that her
hypertension was under control, that she gets about three
migraine head- aches a year, and that she had been diagnosed
with anxiety and depression.
daily activities, Burmester testified that her husband helped
her out of bed but she was otherwise independent in her own
self care. Her husband did the cooking, cleaning, paid the
bills, and went grocery shopping and a friend helped with
cleaning once a week. Burmester was able to go to church once
a week; out to dinner once a month; use the computer to check
her email and social media accounts; and walk her dog half a
block twice a day. Her treating physician prescribed the use
of a cane.
January 17, 2013, in a written decision, the ALJ determined
that Burmester was not disabled. Burmester successfully
appealed that decision to the Appeals Council, and her case
was remanded to the ALJ for further hearings.
second hearing was held on June 3, 2014. Burmester again
amended her disability onset date to September 6, 2009. She
testified that she suffered from degenerative disc and joint
disease in her lumbar spine, right shoulder impingement
syndrome, chondromalacia in the left patella, rheumatoid
arthritis in her feet and hands, neck pain, gout, high blood
pressure, trochanteric bursitis in her hips, and Type II
diabetes. She took Percocet and morphine for pain management,
and received Remicade infusions every six weeks to treat her
rheumatoid arthritis. Burmester stated again that she had
been diagnosed with anxiety and depression, and reported
having panic attacks every three months.
time of the hearing, she lived with her husband and adult son
who cooked her meals and did the grocery shopping. She would
do some cleaning, but her son or husband would finish it when
she inevitably became too sore to continue. She reported
attending church twice a month, and going out to eat once a
month. She also let her dog outside and walked around the
backyard with him for twenty minutes at a time.
16, 2014, the ALJ found that Burmester was not disabled; he
concluded that "based upon the overall objective
diagnostic imaging, physical examination, and mental status
findings, the claimant's admitted high level of daily
functioning contradicting her hearing testimony, as well as
her multiple inconsistent statements (such as regarding drug
use, short and long-term memory, and ability to concentrate),
the undersigned finds that her allegations of disability are