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Douglas v. Colvin

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

September 23, 2016

TONY DOUGLAS, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ABBIE CRITES-LEONI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Tony Douglas brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the Social Security Administration Commissioner's denial of his application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act. Douglas alleged that he was disabled because of vision problems, spine problems, hearing loss, memory problems, anxiety, depression, breathing problems, and stomach problems/possible ulcers. (Tr. 296.)

         An Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that Douglas has several medically determinable impairments, but does not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments and is not, therefore, disabled.

         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

         Douglas protectively filed applications for DIB and SSI on March 12, 2012, claiming that he became unable to work due to his disabling condition on January 30, 2012.[1] (Tr. 251-57, 258-63). Douglas' claims were denied initially. (Tr. 139-43.) Following an administrative hearing, Douglas' claims were denied in a written opinion by an ALJ, dated December 30, 2013. (Tr. 74-91.) Douglas 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 27, 2015. (Tr. 73, 2-4.) The Appeals Council indicated that it had considered additional evidence received after its decision, but it did not provide a basis to set aside its decision.[2] (Tr. 1.) 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, Douglas claims that the ALJ erred in “[f]ailing to find the Plaintiff met the Grids for his advanced age (59 years), lack of transferable skills, and combination of impairments.” (Doc. 14 at 1.)

         II. The ALJ's Determination

         The ALJ found that Douglas met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2016, and that he has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 30, 2012, his alleged onset date. (Tr. 79.)

         In addition, the ALJ concluded that Douglas' anxiety, history of head injury, mild degenerative and congenital changes in the lumbar spine and history of a healed compression fracture in the thoracic spine, history of Bell's palsy[3] affecting the right side of the face, and hyperlipidemia were medically determinable impairments. (Tr. 79.) The ALJ found that Douglas did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that has significantly limited or is expected to significantly limit his ability to perform basic work-related activities for twelve consecutive months. (Tr. 80.) The ALJ therefore concluded that Douglas does not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments. Id.

         The ALJ found that Douglas has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from January 30, 2012, through December 30, 2013. (Tr. 91.)

         The ALJ's final decision reads as follows:

Based on the application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits protectively filed on March 12, 2012, the claimant is not disabled under sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act.
Based on the application for supplemental security income protectively filed on March 12, 2012, the claimant is not disabled under section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act.

(Tr. 91.)

         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 ...

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