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Tyson v. Colvin

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

August 19, 2015

GRACE MACHELLE TYSON, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant

Page 940

          For Grace Machelle Tyson, Plaintiff: Traci L. Severs, LEAD ATTORNEY, DENNIS W. FOX AND ASSOCIATES, St. Louis, MO.

         For Carolyn W. Colvin, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant: Nicholas P. Llewellyn, LEAD ATTORNEY, OFFICE OF U.S. ATTORNEY, St. Louis, MO.

Page 941

         OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

         HENRY EDWARD AUTREY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's request for judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the final decision of Defendant denying Plaintiff's applications for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income (SSI) under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act (Act), 42 U.S.C. § § 401-434, 1381-1385 . For the reasons set forth below, the Court will affirm the Commissioner's denial of Plaintiff's applications.

         Facts and Background

         On June 5, 2012 Plaintiff appeared and testified before Administrative Law Judge Thomas C. Muldoon. Plaintiff was 51 years old, having been born on October 3, 1960, at the time of the hearing. Plaintiff had past work experience as a home health aide, CNA, and presser. She resides with her mother and grandmother and maintains their household, does the grocery shopping and otherwise acts as the head of their household.

         Plaintiff testified that she suffers from pain in her knees and back. As a result she can't stand longer than 45 minutes and then has to sit or lie down for a period of time due to the pain. She testified she can only walk for limited periods of time without having to rest and that she would not be able to work at a job that required her to be standing six hours out of an eight hour day. The Plaintiff further testified at the hearing that she could only lift 10 pounds without having difficulty with her back. On examination by her attorney Plaintiff testified she has issues with depression and anxiety. She gets nervous about driving and going outside.

         The ALJ concluded, based upon the inquiry, and responses, of the Plaintiff, and the documentary and records evidence presented, that Plaintiff retained the Residual Functional Capacity to perform medium work except lifting and carrying no more than 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently; standing or walking more than six hours out of eight with normal work breaks; climbing ropes, ladders, or scaffolds, kneeling, crouching, and crawling no more than occasionally.

         The ALJ found Plaintiff had the severe impairments of bilateral knee degenerative joint disease and chondromalacia, right knee bursitis and small Baker's cyst as well as obesity. ALJ Muldoon further found Plaintiff does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 CFR Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1, Part A, 20 CFR 404.1520(d), 404.1525, 404.1526, 416.920(d), 416.925 and 416.926. ALJ Muldoon also concluded that Plaintiff was capable of performing past relevant work as a home health aide, presser, or CNA as that work did not require the performance of work activities precluded by Plaintiff's residual functional capacity. The ALJ therefore concluded Plaintiff was not disabled.

         The Appeals Council denied her request for review on May 12, 2014. The decision of the ALJ is now the final decision for review by this court.

         Statement of Issues

         The issues in a Social Security case are whether the final decision of the Commissioner is consistent with the Social Security Act, regulations, and applicable case law, and whether the findings of fact by the ALJ are supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Here the Plaintiff asserts the ALJ's assessment at step two is not supported by substantial

Page 942

evidence, the ALJ did not properly consider the medical opinions of record, and the ALJ's decision is not supported by substantial evidence considering the new evidence submitted to the Appeals Council.

         Standard For Determining Disability

         The Social Security Act defines as disabled a person who is " unable 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 twelve months." 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(A); see also Hurd v. Astrue, 621 F.3d 734, 738 (8th Cir. 2010). The impairment must be " of such severity that [the claimant] is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot, considering his age, education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or whether he would be hired if he applied for work." 42 U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).

         A five-step regulatory framework is used to determine whether an individual claimant qualifies for disability benefits. 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520(a), 416.920(a); see also McCoy v. Astrue, 648 F.3d 605, 611 (8th Cir. 2011) (discussing the five-step process). At Step One, the ALJ determines whether the claimant is currently engaging in " substantial gainful activity" ; if so, then he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520(a)(4)(I), 416.920(a)(4)(I); McCoy, 648 F.3d at 611. At Step Two, the ALJ determines whether the claimant has a severe impairment, which is " any impairment or combination of impairments which significantly limits [the claimant's] physical or mental ability to do basic work activities" ; if the claimant does not have a severe impairment, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. § § 404.1520(a) (4)(ii), 404.1520(c), 416.920(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(c); McCoy, 648 F.3d at 611. At Step Three, the ALJ evaluates whether the claimant's impairment meets or equals one of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the " listings" ). 20 C.F.R. § § ...


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