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Gore v. Colvin

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

October 14, 2016

KIMBERLY GORE, Plaintiff,
v.
CAROLYN W. COLVIN, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANNETTE A. BAKER UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         This matter is before the Court on Kimberly Gore's (Gore) appeal regarding the denial of her application for supplemental security income under the Social Security Act. The Court has jurisdiction over the subject matter of this action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Gore alleged disability due to fibromyalgia, back injury, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and chronic fatigue syndrome. (Tr. 150.) The parties have consented to the exercise of authority by the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). [Doc. 8.] Based on the following, the Court will affirm the Commissioner's decision.

         I. Background

         On January 10, 2013, Gore applied for supplemental security income with an alleged onset date of March 1, 2012. (Tr. 119-24.) The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) denied Gore's claim and she filed a timely request for a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). (Tr. 64-71.) The SSA granted Gore's request for review. (Tr. 72-74.) An administrative hearing was held on April 1, 2014. (Tr. 26-54.) Gore, who was represented by counsel, and a vocational expert testified at the hearing. On April 25, 2014, the ALJ issued a written opinion upholding the denial of benefits. (Tr. 11-19.) Gore requested review of the ALJ's decision from the Appeals Council. (Tr. 23.) On August 26, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Gore's request for review. (Tr. 1-4.) The decision of the ALJ thus stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000). Gore filed this appeal on October 15, 2015. [Doc. 1.] The Commissioner filed an Answer and the certified Administrative Transcript on December 16, 2015. [Docs. 9, 10.] Gore filed a Brief in Support of Complaint on January 18, 2016. [Doc. 11.] The Commissioner filed a Brief in Support of the Answer on April 20, 2016. [Doc. 18.]

         II. Standard of Review

         The Social Security Act defines disability as an “inability 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 has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. § 416(i)(1)(A).

         The SSA uses a five-step analysis to determine whether a claimant seeking disability benefits is in fact disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(1). First, the claimant must not be engaged in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(i). Second, the claimant must establish that he or she has an impairment or combination of impairments that significantly limits his or her ability to perform basic work activities and meets the durational requirements of the Act. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(ii). Third, the claimant must establish that his or her impairment meets or equals an impairment listed in the appendix to the applicable regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a listed impairment, the SSA determines the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(e).

         Fourth, the claimant must establish that the impairment prevents him or her from doing past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant meets this burden, the analysis proceeds to step five. At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to establish that the claimant maintains the RFC to perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy. Singh v. Apfel, 222 F.3d 448, 451 (8th Cir. 2000). If the claimant satisfies all of the criteria under the five-step evaluation, the ALJ will find the claimant to be disabled. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920(a)(4)(v).

         The standard of review is narrow. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001). This Court reviews decisions of the ALJ to determine whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind would find adequate support for the ALJ's decision. Smith v. Shalala, 31 F.3d 715, 717 (8th Cir. 1994). The court determines whether evidence is substantial by considering evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision as well as evidence that supports it. Cox v. Barnhart, 471 F.3d 902, 906 (8th Cir. 2006). The Court may not reverse just because substantial evidence exists that would support a contrary outcome or because the Court would have decided the case differently. Id. If, after reviewing the record as a whole, the Court finds it possible to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions represents the Commissioner's finding, the Commissioner's decision must be affirmed. Masterson v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 736 (8th Cir. 2004). To determine whether the ALJ's final decision is supported by substantial evidence, the Court is required to review the administrative record as a whole to consider:

(1) The findings of credibility made by the ALJ;
(2) The education, background, work history, and age of the claimant;
(3) The medical evidence given by the claimant's treating physicians;
(4) The subjective complaints of pain and description of the claimant's physical activity and impairment;
(5) The corroboration by third parties of the claimant's physical impairment;
(6) The testimony of vocational experts based upon prior hypothetical questions which fairly set forth the claimant's physical impairment; and
(7) The testimony of consulting physicians.

Brand v. Sec'y of Dept. of Health, Educ. & Welfare, 623 F.2d 523, 527 (8th Cir. 1980).

         III. ALJ's Decision

         The ALJ determined that Gore had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since January 4, 2013. (Tr. 13.) The ALJ found Gore had the severe impairment of fibromyalgia. (Tr. 13.) The ALJ also found that Gore did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that met or medically equaled the severity of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 15.) The ALJ then found that Gore had the RFC to perform the full range of light work, as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(b). (Tr. 15.) The ALJ found that Gore had no past relevant work, but there were jobs in the national economy that she could perform. (Tr. 17-18.) Finally, the ALJ concluded that Gore had not been under a disability as defined in the Social Security Act, since January 4, 2013, the date the application was filed. (Tr. 19.)

         IV. Administrative Record

         The following is a summary of relevant evidence before the ALJ.

         A. Gore's ...


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