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Perez v. Colvin

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

August 21, 2014

ANTONIO PEREZ, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION

NANNETTE A. BAKER, Magistrate Judge.

This is an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying Antonio A. Perez's ("Perez") application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act ("SSA"), 42 U.S.C. § 423. Perez alleged disability due to depression, anxiety, agoraphobia[1], constant tremors in his arms and legs, uncontrollable bowel movements, and pain. (Tr. 175.) This matter was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1). [Doc. 5.] For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned recommends that the Administrative Law Judge's ("ALJ") decision be affirmed.

I. Background

On July 15, 2011, Perez filed an application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits, with an alleged onset date of February 1, 2011. (Tr. 145-146, 181.) The Social Security Administration denied Perez's application and he filed a timely request for a hearing before an ALJ on September 23, 2011. (Tr. 69-75.) The Social Security Administration granted Perez's request and a hearing took place on September 12, 2012. (Tr. 30-60.) Perez and vocational expert ("VE") Delores Gonzalez testified at the administrative hearing. Perez was represented by counsel. On December 21, 2012, that ALJ issued a written decision affirming the denial of benefits. (Tr. 12-25.) On March 15, 2013, the Appeals Council denied Perez's request for review of the ALJ's decision. (Tr. 1-7.) The decision of the ALJ thus stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000). Perez brought this action for judicial review of the Commissioner's final decision under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) on May 6, 2013. [Doc. 1.] Perez filed a Brief in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment on July 31, 2013[2]. [Doc. 12.] The Commissioner filed a Brief in Support of the Answer on October 30, 2013. [Doc. 17.] Perez filed a Reply Brief in Support of Motion for Summary Judgment on November 20, 2013. [Doc. 20.]

II. Standard of Review

The Social Security Act defines disability as an "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 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).

The Social Security Administration uses a five-step analysis to determine whether a claimant seeking disability benefits is in fact disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(1). First, the claimant must not be engaged in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(i). Second, the claimant must establish that he or she has an impairment or combination of impairments that significantly limits his or her ability to perform basic work activities. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(ii). Third, the claimant must establish that his or her impairment meets or equals an impairment listed in the appendix to the applicable regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iii).

Fourth, the claimant must establish that the impairment prevents him or her from doing past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(iv). At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to establish that the claimant maintains the residual functional capacity to perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy. Singh v. Apfel, 222 F.3d 448, 451 (8th Cir. 2000). If the claimant satisfies all of the criteria under the five-step evaluation, the ALJ will find the claimant to be disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 404.1520(a)(4)(v).

This Court reviews decisions of the ALJ to determine whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind would find adequate support for the ALJ's decision. Smith v. Shalala, 31 F.3d 715, 717 (8th Cir. 1994). Therefore, even if this Court finds that there is a preponderance of evidence against the weight of the ALJ's decision, the decision must be affirmed if it is supported by substantial evidence. Clark v. Heckler, 733 F.2d 65, 68 (8th Cir. 1984). An administrative decision is not subject to reversal simply because some evidence may support the opposite conclusion. Gwathney v. Chater, 1043, 1045 (8th Cir. 1997).

To determine whether the ALJ's final decision is supported by substantial evidence, the Court is required to review the administrative record as a whole to consider:

(1) The findings of credibility made by the ALJ;
(2) The education, background, work history, and age of the claimant;
(3) The medical evidence given by the claimant's treating physician;
(4) The subjective complaints of pain and description of the claimant's physical activity and impairment;
(5) The corroboration by third parties of the claimant's physical impairment;
(6) The testimony of vocational experts based upon prior hypothetical questions which fairly set forth the claimant's physical impairment; and
(7) The testimony of consulting physicians.

Brand v. Sec'y of Dept. of Health, Educ. & Welfare, 623 F.2d 523, 527 (8th Cir. 1980).

III. ALJ Decision

First, the ALJ determined that Perez met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through June 30, 2015 and he has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since February 1, 2011, the alleged onset date of disability. (Tr. 14.) Second, the ALJ found that Perez had the severe combination of a history of bilateral knee surgeries, back pain, and lateral epicondylitis[3]. (Tr. 14.) Third, the ALJ determined that Perez did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 15.) He also determined that Perez had the residual functional capacity ("RFC") to perform the full range of light work. (Tr. 17.) Fourth, the ALJ found that Perez was capable of performing his past relevant work as a customer service worker and other jobs that exist in ...


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