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Stark v. Colvin

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

September 29, 2016

RUTH STARK, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ABBIE CRITES-LEONI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Ruth Stark 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 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 Stark was not disabled, because she did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that significantly limited her ability to perform basic work-related activities.

         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

         Stark protectively filed her applications for DIB and SSI on June 5, 2012, claiming that she became unable to work due to her disabling condition on January 10, 2011. (Tr. 281-94.) Stark's claims were denied initially. (Tr. 106-17.) Following an administrative hearing, Stark's claims were denied in a written opinion by an ALJ, dated July 17, 2014. (Tr. 12-20.) Stark 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 August 4, 2015. (Tr. 7, 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, Stark first argues that the ALJ “did not provide a proper decision at step two because the ALJ failed to properly consider Stark's cognitive disorder as a medically determinable impairment.” (Doc. 12 at 5.) Stark next argues that the ALJ “did not provide a proper decision at step two because the ALJ failed to consider Stark's obesity, hypertension, and hyperlipidemia as severe impairments.” (Doc. 12 at 11.) Stark finally contends that the ALJ “erred by failing to provide a proper credibility analysis as required by SSR 96-7p in that the ALJ failed to base the analysis on the substantial evidence of record.” (Doc. 12 at 13.)

         II. The ALJ's Determination

         The ALJ found that Stark met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2015, and has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 10, 2011, the alleged onset date. (Tr. 14.)

         In addition, the ALJ concluded that Stark has the following medically determinable impairments: hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and obesity. (Tr. 15.) The ALJ found that Stark does not have an impairment or combination of impairments that has significantly limited her ability to perform basic work-related activities for twelve consecutive months. Id. The ALJ therefore found that Stark does not have a severe impairment or combination of impairments. Id.

The ALJ found that Stark's allegations regarding her limitations were not entirely credible.

(Tr. 16.)

         As to the opinion evidence, the ALJ indicated that he was assigning “significant weight” to the opinions of the medical experts, Dr. John Pollard, Dr. Mitchell Collman, and Dr. Charles Augenshine; and to the opinion of examining psychologist Dr. Paul Rexroat. (Tr. 18.) He stated that he was extending “considerable weight” to the opinion of non-examining state agency psychologist Dr. Kyle DeVore. (Tr. 19.) The ALJ indicated that he was according “less weight” to the opinion of consultative psychologist Dr. Michael Armour. Id. Finally, the ALJ stated that the medical source statement of treating physician Dr. Doris Tribune-Brown was entitled to no weight. Id.

         The ALJ found that Stark has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from January 10, 2011, 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 filed on June 5, 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 June 5, 2012, the claimant is not disabled under section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act.

Id.

         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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