United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
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 Tamara Marchand's (Marchand) application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, 1381 et seq. Marchand alleged disability due to attention deficit disorder (ADD), depression, and social anxiety. (Tr. 166.) This matter was referred to the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1) for a report and recommendation. [Doc. 5.] For the reasons set forth below, the undersigned recommends that Marchand's request for relief be denied.
In August 2011, Marchand applied for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income. (Tr. 131-146.) Marchand sought an award of benefits for a closed period of disability from March 10, 2009 to January 15, 2013. (Tr. 156.) The Social Security Administration ("SSA") denied Marchand's claim and she filed a timely request for a hearing before an administrative law judge ("ALJ"). (Tr. 66-92.) The SSA granted Marchand's request for review. (Tr. 93-95.) An administrative hearing was held on April 23, 2013. (Tr. 23-65.) Marchand, who was represented by counsel, testified at the hearing. On May 31, 2013, the ALJ issued a written opinion upholding the denial of benefits. (Tr. 9-19.) Marchand requested review of the ALJ's decision from the Appeals Council. (Tr. 4.) On March 4, 2014, the Appeals Council denied Marchand's request for review. (Tr. 1-3.) The decision of the ALJ thus stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000). Marchand filed this appeal on May 7, 2014. [Doc. 1.] The Commissioner filed an Answer and the certified Administrative Transcript on July 11, 2014. [Docs. 10, 11.] Marchand filed a Brief in Support of Complaint on October 1, 2014. [Doc. 16.] The Commissioner filed a Brief in Support of the Answer on December 29, 2014. [Doc. 21.]
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. §§ 416(i)(1)(A), 423(d)(1)(A).
The SSA 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), 416.920(a)(1). First, the claimant must not be engaged in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(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 and meets the durational requirements of the Act. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(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), 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a listed impairment, the SSA determines the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e).
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), 416.920(a)(iv). If the claimant meets this burden, the analysis proceeds to step five. At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to establish that the claimant maintains the RFC 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), 416.920(a)(4)(v).
The standard of review is narrow. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001). 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). The court determines whether evidence is substantial by considering evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision as well as evidence that supports it. Cox v. Barnhart, 471 F.3d 902, 906 (8th Cir. 2006). The Court may not reverse just because substantial evidence exists that would support a contrary outcome or because the Court would have decided the case differently. Id. If, after reviewing the record as a whole, the Court finds it possible to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions represents the Commissioner's finding, the Commissioner's decision must be affirmed. Masterson v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 736 (8th Cir. 2004). 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, ...