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Frenzel v. Colvin

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

September 23, 2016

BETTY LEE FRENZEL, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ABBIE CRITES-LEONI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Betty Lee Frenzel brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the Social Security Administration Commissioner's denial of her application for Child Insurance Benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act.

         An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that, despite Frenzel's multiple severe impairments, she was not disabled as she had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy.

         This matter is pending before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge, with consent of the parties, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). A summary of the entire record is presented in the parties' briefs and is repeated here only to the extent necessary.

         I. Procedural History

         On October 21, 2010, Frenzel filed applications for Child's Insurance Benefits[1] and SSI, claiming that she became disabled on January 1, 2004. (Tr. 204-09.) Frenzel's claims were denied initially. (Tr. 108-17.) Following an administrative hearing, Frenzel's claims were denied in a written opinion by an ALJ, dated October 31, 2013. (Tr. 23-38.) Frenzel then filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision with the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration (SSA), which was denied on February 19, 2015. (Tr. 3-6.) Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. '' 404.981, 416.1481. In the instant action, Frenzel claims that the ALJ erred in that he “gave little weight to the only evidence related to Frenzel's mental functioning abilities and disregarded evidence which supported further limitations.” (Doc. 13 at 1.)

         II. The ALJ's Determination

         The ALJ stated that Frenzel was born on November 11, 1991, and had not attained age twenty-two as of January 1, 2004, the alleged onset date. (Tr. 28.) The ALJ found that Frenzel had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date. Id.

         In addition, the ALJ concluded that Frenzel had the following severe impairments: bipolar disorder; major depressive disorder; mood disorder; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); generalized anxiety disorder; personality disorder with borderline features; right carpal tunnel syndrome; and mild generative disc disease of the lumbar spine. Id. The ALJ found that Frenzel did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or equals in severity the requirements of any impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 29.)

         As to Frenzel's RFC, the ALJ stated:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to lift 50 pounds occasionally and 25 pounds frequently; can stand and/or walk about 6 hours out of an 8 hour workday, with normal breaks; can sit for about 8 hours out of an 8 hour workday, with normal breaks; and push and/or pull to same weights. She is able to frequently bend, kneel, stoop, crawl, or crouch. She is frequently able to walk on uneven terrain, as well as climb ladders and work at heights. She is able to frequently perform fine manipulation with the right, upper extremity. She is limited to simple and routine tasks, consisting of one to two step instructions. She is limited to occasional, superficial, non-confrontational, and non-negotiation types of interactions with co-workers and supervisors. She is limited to work that does not involve team effort in making decision, developing goals or priorities, building consensus, or negotiating outcomes. She is not able to work with the general public.

(Tr. 31-32.)

         The ALJ found that Frenzel's allegations regarding her limitations were not entirely credible. (Tr. 32-33.) In determining Frenzel's mental RFC, [2] the ALJ indicated that he was assigning “great weight” to the opinion of state agency consultant W. Nordbock, Ph.D. (Tr. 34.) He stated that he was giving “little weight” to the opinion of Frenzel's counselor, Laura Swalley, because Ms. Swalley is not an acceptable medical source and her opinion is not consistent with the evidence of record. (Tr. 34.)

         The ALJ further found that Frenzel has no past relevant work. (Tr. 37.) The ALJ noted that a vocational expert testified that Frenzel could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, such as farm worker, laundry laborer, and skin lifter. (Tr. 37-38.) The ALJ therefore concluded that Frenzel has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from January 1, 2004, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 38.)

         The ALJ's final decision reads as follows:

Based on the application for child's insurance benefits filed on October 21, 2010, the claimant is not disabled as defined in section 223(d) of the Social Security Act through the date of this decision.
Based on the application for supplemental security income protectively field on September 28, 2010, the claimant is not disabled under section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act.

(Tr. 38.)

         III. Applicable Law III.A. Standard of Review

         The decision of the Commissioner must be affirmed if it is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Estes v. Barnhart, 275 F.3d 722, 724 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance of the evidence, but enough that a reasonable person would find it adequate to support the conclusion. Johnson v. Apfel, 240 F.3d 1145, 1147 (8th Cir. 2001). This “substantial evidence test, ” however, is “more than a mere search of the record for evidence supporting the Commissioner's findings.” Coleman v. Astrue, 498 F.3d 767, 770 (8th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “Substantial evidence on the record as a whole . . . requires a more scrutinizing analysis.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         To determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, the Court must review the entire administrative record and consider:

1. The credibility findings made by the ALJ.
2. The plaintiff's vocational factors.
3. The medical evidence from treating and consulting physicians.
4. The plaintiff's subjective complaints relating to exertional and non-exertional ...

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