United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
STEPHEN P. CHISMARICH, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CATHERINE D. PERRY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Stephen P. Chismarich brings this action under 42 U.S.C.
§ 405 seeking judicial review of the Commissioner's
final decision denying his claim for disability insurance
benefits (DIB) under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42
U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq. Because
Chismarich's allegations of error fail, I will affirm the
20, 2012, the Social Security Administration (SSA) denied
Chismarich's June 2012 application for DIB, in which
Chismarich claimed he became disabled on July 31, 2010,
because of bipolar disorder, drug and alcohol addiction, knee
injury, and attention deficit hypertension disorder.
Chismarich later amended his alleged onset date to August 1,
2012. At Chismarich's request, hearings were held before
an administrative law judge (ALJ) on February 13 and April
30, 2014, at which Chismarich, a medical expert, and two
vocational experts testified. On May 30, 2014, the ALJ denied
Chismarich's claim for benefits, finding vocational
expert testimony to support a finding that he could perform
work as it exists in significant numbers in the national
economy. On September 12, 2015, the Appeals Council denied
Chismarich's request for review of the ALJ's
decision. The ALJ's decision is thus the final decision
of the Commissioner. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).
action for judicial review, Chismarich asserts that the ALJ
committed legal error in three respects, namely, that his
residual functional capacity (RFC) assessment is inconsistent
with other findings in his decision; that he did not resolve
conflicts between vocational expert testimony and the
Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT); and that he failed
to consider the opinion of Chismarich's spouse, who is a
doctor, to be a medical opinion. Chismarich requests that the
matter be reversed and remanded for an award of benefits or
for further proceedings.
eligible for DIB under the Social Security Act, Chismarich
must prove that he is disabled. Pearsall v.
Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001);
Baker v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs., 955
F.2d 552, 555 (8th Cir. 1992). The Social Security Act
defines disability as the "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 which has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12
months." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(1)(A). An individual
will be declared disabled "only if his physical or
mental impairment or impairments are of such severity that he
is not only unable to do his previous work but cannot,
considering his age, education, and work experience, engage
in any other kind of substantial gainful work which exists in
the national economy." 42 U.S.C. § 423(d)(2)(A).
determine whether a claimant is disabled, the Commissioner
engages in a five-step evaluation process. See 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520; Bowen v. Yuckert, 482 U.S.
137, 140-42 (1987). The Commissioner begins by deciding
whether the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful
activity. If the claimant is working, disability benefits are
denied. Next, the Commissioner decides whether the claimant
has a “severe” impairment or combination of
impairments, meaning that which significantly limits his
ability to do basic work activities. If the claimant's
impairment(s) is not severe, then he is not disabled. The
Commissioner then determines whether claimant's
impairment(s) meets or equals one of the impairments listed
in 20 C.F.R., Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. If
claimant's impairment(s) is equivalent to one of the
listed impairments, he is conclusively disabled. At the
fourth step, the Commissioner establishes whether the
claimant can perform his past relevant work. If so, the
claimant is not disabled. Finally, the Commissioner evaluates
various factors to determine whether the claimant is capable
of performing any other work in the economy. If not, the
claimant is declared disabled and becomes entitled to
affirm the Commissioner's decision if it not based on
legal error and if there is substantial evidence on the
record as a whole to support the conclusion. Wildman v.
Astrue, 596 F.3d 959, 963 (8th Cir. 2010). Substantial
evidence is less than a preponderance 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). Determining whether there is substantial
evidence requires scrutinizing analysis. Coleman v.
Astrue, 498 F.3d 767, 770 (8th Cir. 2007).
The ALJ's Decision
found Chismarich to meet the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act through September 30, 2015. He
further found Chismarich not to have engaged in substantial
gainful activity since August 1, 2012, the alleged onset date
of disability. The ALJ found Chismarich's residuals of
left knee surgery, bipolar disorder, history of learning
disorder, and mood disorder to be severe impairments but not
to meet or medically equal an impairment listed in 20 C.F.R.
Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1.
then assessed Chismarich's RFC and determined him to have
exertional and non-exertional limitations, including:
The claimant is able to understand, remember, and carry out
at least simple instructions and non-detailed tasks; can
respond appropriately to supervisors and co-workers in a
task-oriented setting where contact with others is casual and
infrequent; can adapt to routine and simple work changes on
an infrequent basis; can perform work at a normal pace
without production quotas; should not work in a setting which
includes constant, regular contact with the general public;
and should not perform work which includes more than
infrequent handling of customer complaints.
(Tr. 18.) The ALJ found Chismarich's RFC to preclude
performance of his past relevant work as a shipping clerk,
commercial driver, or service coordinator. Considering
Chismarich's RFC, age, education, and work experience,
the ALJ determined vocational expert testimony to support a
finding that Chismarich could perform other work as it exists
in significant numbers in the national economy, and
specifically as a cleaner/janitor and mail clerk. The ALJ
thus found Chismarich not to be under a disability at any
time from August 1, 2012, through the date of the decision.
conducting judicial review of an ALJ's decision to deny
benefits, I must determine whether the decision is based on
legal error, and whether the findings of fact are supported
by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.
Wildman, 596 F.3d at 963. As noted above, Chismarich
asserts only that the ALJ committed legal error in denying
benefits. Accordingly, while I have reviewed the
administrative record in its entirety, a full factual summary
of the record is not necessary for me to address
Chismarich's claims. Specific facts relevant to
disposition of the claims are included in this discussion.
Spouse's Third ...