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Fazio v. Colvin

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

September 28, 2016

JAMES FAZIO, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ABBIE CRITES-LEONI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff James Fazio 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.

         An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that, despite Fazio's multiple severe impairments, he was not disabled as he 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

         Fazio protectively filed his applications for DIB and SSI on March 6, 2014, alleging that he became unable to work due to his disabling condition on November 10, 2011.[1] (Tr. 263-68, 285-86, 604-05.) His claims were denied initially. (Tr. 287-91.) Following an administrative hearing, Fazio's claims were denied in a written opinion by an ALJ, dated January 28, 2015. (Tr. 12-23.) Fazio 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 March 26, 2015. (Tr. 8, 1-5.) 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, Fazio claims that the “ALJ's RFC is not supported by substantial evidence.” (Doc. 16 at 3.)

         II. The ALJ's Determination

         The ALJ stated that Fazio met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through September 30, 2016. (Tr. 15.) The ALJ found that Fazio had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since December 31, 2013. Id.

         In addition, the ALJ concluded that Fazio had the following severe impairments: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety disorder, and depressive disorder (20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(c) and 416.920(c)). Id. The ALJ found that Fazio did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or equals in severity the requirements of any listed impairment. Id.

         As to Fazio's RFC, the ALJ stated:

After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following nonexertional limitations: He can (1) understand, remember, and carry out simple instructions; (2) have occasional interaction with supervisors, co-workers, and the public; (3) make simple, work-related decisions; and (4) tolerate occasional change in work location.

(Tr. 17.)

         The ALJ found that Fazio's allegations regarding his limitations were not entirely credible. (Tr. 18.) In determining Fazio's RFC, the ALJ indicated that the opinion of Fazio's treating psychiatrist, Justin Esses, M.D., was entitled to “some, but not great weight.” (Tr. 19.) She stated that he was giving “great weight” to the opinion of non-examining state agency consultant, Keith L. Allen, Ph.D. Id.

         The ALJ further found that Fazio has no past relevant work. (Tr. 21.) The ALJ noted that a vocational expert testified that Fazio could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, such as stubber, lab equipment cleaner, and laundry worker. (Tr. 22.) The ALJ therefore concluded that Fazio has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from December 31, 2013, through the date of the decision. Id.

         The ALJ's final decision reads as follows:

Based on the application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits protectively field on March 6, 2014, 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 6, 2014, the claimant is not disabled under section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act.

(Tr. 23.)

         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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