United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
C. COLLINS, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
an action under Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner denying the
application of Debra Brandes (“Plaintiff”) for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42
U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq. Plaintiff has filed
a brief in support of the Complaint (Doc. No. 17), and
Defendant has filed a brief in support of the Answer (Doc.
No. 24). The Parties have consented to the jurisdiction of
the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to
Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) (Doc. No. 9).
filed her application for DIB on July 14, 2012 (Tr. 11).
Plaintiff was initially denied on August 3, 2012, and she
filed a Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (ALJ) (Tr. 63-67, 71-74). After a hearing, by decision
dated July 2, 2014, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled (Tr.
8-29). On October 5, 2015, the Appeals Council denied
Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-4). As such, the
ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the
DECISION OF THE ALJ
determined that Plaintiff meets the insured status
requirements of the Social Security Act through March 31,
2013, and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since June 1, 2011, the alleged onset date of disability (Tr.
13). The ALJ found Plaintiff has the severe impairments of
degenerative disc disease in the thoracic and lumbar spine,
coronary artery disease and chronic abdominal pain but that
no impairment or combination of impairments met or medically
equaled the severity of one of the listed impairments in 20
C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (Tr. 13-15).
considering the entire record, the ALJ determined Plaintiff
has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform light work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 404.1567(b)
with the following limitations (Tr. 15). She will only
occasionally be able to climb ramps and stairs but never be
able to climb ladders, ropes and scaffolds; she is unable to
stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl; she cannot be exposed to
concentrated levels of humidity and pulmonary irritants
(fumes, odors, dusts, gases, and poorly ventilated
environments); and she cannot be exposed to extreme
vibration, moving machinery, unprotected heights and
hazardous machinery (Tr. 15-16). She is further limited to
simple routine tasks, occasional decision-making in the work
setting, and no interaction with the public and coworkers
(Tr. 16). However, contact with coworkers can occur as long
as said contact is casual and infrequent (Id.). The
ALJ found Plaintiff unable to perform any past relevant work,
but that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in
the national economy that she can perform, including mail
sorter, marker, and routing clerk (Tr. 24-26). Thus, the ALJ
concluded that a finding of “not disabled” was
appropriate (Tr. 26). Plaintiff appeals to this Court,
arguing a lack of substantial evidence to support the
the Social Security Act, the Commissioner has established a
five-step process for determining whether a person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920, 404.1529.
“‘If a claimant fails to meet the criteria at any
step in the evaluation of disability, the process ends and
the claimant is determined to be not disabled.'”
Goff v. Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 790 (8th Cir. 2005)
(quoting Eichelberger v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 584,
590-91 (8th Cir. 2004)). In this sequential analysis, the
claimant first cannot be engaged in “substantial
gainful activity” to qualify for disability benefits.
20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(b), 404.1520(b). Second, the
claimant must have a severe impairment. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(c), 404.1520(c). The Social Security Act
defines “severe impairment” as “any
impairment or combination of impairments which significantly
limits [claimant's] physical or mental ability to do
basic work activities. . . .” Id.
“‘The sequential evaluation process may be
terminated at step two only when the claimant's
impairment or combination of impairments would have no more
than a minimal impact on [his or] her ability to
work.'” Page v. Astrue, 484 F.3d 1040,
1043 (8th Cir. 2007) (quoting Caviness v. Massanari,
250 F.3d 603, 605 (8th Cir. 2001), citing Nguyen v.
Chater, 75 F.3d 429, 430-31 (8th Cir. 1996)).
the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has an impairment
which meets or equals one of the impairments listed in the
Regulations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(d), 404.1520(d).
If the claimant has one of, or the medical equivalent of,
these impairments, then the claimant is per se disabled
without consideration of the claimant's age, education,
or work history. Id.
the impairment must prevent the claimant from doing past
relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(f),
404.1520(f). The burden rests with the claimant at this
fourth step to establish his or her RFC. Steed v.
Astrue, 524 F.3d 872, 874 n.3 (8th Cir. 2008)
(“Through step four of this analysis, the claimant has
the burden of showing that she is disabled.”). The ALJ
will review a claimant's RFC and the physical and mental
demands of the work the claimant has done in the past. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(f).
the severe impairment must prevent the claimant from doing
any other work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(g),
404.1520(g). At this fifth step of the sequential analysis,
the Commissioner has the burden of production to show
evidence of other jobs in the national economy that can be
performed by a person with the claimant's RFC.
Steed, 524 F.3d at 874 n.3. If the claimant meets
these standards, the ALJ will find the claimant to be
disabled. “The ultimate burden of persuasion to prove
disability, however, remains with the claimant.”
Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1069 n.5 (8th Cir.
2000). See also Harris v. Barnhart, 356 F.3d 926,
931 n.2 (8th Cir. 2004) (citing 68 Fed. Reg. 51153, 51155
(Aug. 26, 2003)); Stormo v. Barnhart, 377 F.3d 801,
806 (8th Cir. 2004) (“The burden of persuasion to prove
disability and to demonstrate RFC remains on the claimant,
even when the burden of production shifts to the Commissioner
at step five.”). Even if a court finds that there is a
preponderance of the evidence against the ALJ's decision,
the decision must be affirmed if it is supported by
substantial evidence. Clark v. Heckler, 733 F.2d 65,
68 (8th Cir. 1984). “Substantial evidence is less than
a preponderance but is enough that a reasonable mind would
find it adequate to support the Commissioner's
conclusion.” Krogmeier v. Barnhart, 294 F.3d
1019, 1022 (8th Cir. 2002). See also Cox v. Astrue,
495 F.3d 614, 617 (8th Cir. 2007).
not the job of the district court to re-weigh the evidence or
review the factual record de novo. Cox, 495 F.3d at
617. Instead, the district court must simply determine
whether the quantity and quality of evidence is enough so
that a reasonable mind might find it adequate to support the
ALJ's conclusion. Davis v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 962,
966 (8th Cir. 2001) (citing McKinney v. Apfel, 228
F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2000)). Weighing the evidence is a
function of the ALJ, who is the fact-finder. Masterson v.
Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 736 (8th Cir. 2004). Thus, an
administrative decision which is supported by substantial
evidence is not subject to reversal merely because
substantial evidence may also support an opposite conclusion
or because the reviewing court would have decided
differently. Krogmeier, 294 F.3d at 1022.
determine whether the Commissioner's final decision is
supported by substantial evidence, the court is required to
review the administrative record as a whole and to consider:
(1) Findings of credibility made by the ALJ;
(2) The education, background, work history, and age of the
(3) The medical evidence given by the claimant's treating
(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
(6) The testimony of vocational experts based upon proper
hypothetical questions which fairly set forth the