Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Artrip v. Berryhill

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

February 14, 2017

THOMAS ARTRIP, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL Acting Commissioner of Social Security, [1] Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NOELLE C. COLLINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This is an action under Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the final decision of the Commissioner denying the application of Thomas Artrip (“Plaintiff” or “Artrip”) for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401 et seq., and for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381 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. 25). 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. 18).

         I. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         Plaintiff filed his applications for DIB and SSI on June 22, 2012 (Tr. 158-172). Plaintiff was initially denied on August 16, 2012. (Tr. 102-107), with a Disability Determination Explanation signed by single decision maker (‘SDM”) Tisha Bailey, with evaluation from Gretchen Brandhorst, PsyD on Plaintiff's psychological impairments. (Tr. 76-87). He filed a Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on September 20, 2012 (Tr. 142). After a hearing, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled and entered a decision to that effect on May 9, 2014 (Tr. 17-34). On September 22, 2015, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for review (Tr. 1-6). As such, the ALJ's decision stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.

         II. DECISION OF THE ALJ

         The ALJ determined that Plaintiff meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2016, and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 24, 2010. (Tr. 19). The ALJ found Plaintiff has the severe impairments of “degenerative disc disease/degenerative joint disease cervical spine, unspecified myalgias and myositis, and affective and anxiety disorders[, ]” 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. 20-21).

         After 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) and 416.967(b) “except lift and carry ten pounds frequently and 20 pounds occasionally, sit for at least six hours out of an eight hour work day, and stand/walk at least six hours out of an eight hour work day.” (Tr. 22). The ALJ further found that he is unable to perform work that requires climbing on ropes, ladders, or scaffolds but can occasionally climb on ramps and stairs, and can only occasionally engage in stooping, kneeling, or crouching, and should avoid concentrated exposure to extreme cold and unprotected heights. (Id.). Additionally, the ALJ determined that Plaintiff should avoid constant/regular contact with the general public and more than infrequent handling of customer complaints. (Id.).

         At the hearing, the ALJ used this RFC to pose hypothetical questions to Dr. Robin Cook, Ph.D., a vocational expert. (Tr. 55-75). Specifically, the ALJ asked Dr. Cook whether there were jobs which Plaintiff could perform, given the described RFC as well as his age, education, and work experience. Dr. Cook was also asked whether those jobs exist in significant numbers in the national and local economies. Dr. Cook stated that based on the RFC as formulated, Plaintiff was able to perform jobs such as office helper and photocopy machine operator. (Tr. 57 and 74). She further testified as to how many jobs in those categories existed at that time, both nationally and in Missouri. (Tr. 57).

         In his decision, the ALJ found Plaintiff unable to perform any past relevant work as a construction laborer, powder coater, flooring installer or HVAC technician. (Tr. 32). However, the ALJ did find that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that he can perform, including office helper and photocopy machine operator. (Tr. 33). Thus, the ALJ concluded that a finding of “not disabled” was appropriate. (Id.). Plaintiff has come to this Court to appeal this ruling, arguing a lack of substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's decision. For the following reasons, the Court finds that the ALJ's determination that Plaintiff was not fully credible as to his subjective pain complaints was adequate, but the formulation of the RFC was not. As such, the case shall be remanded for further proceedings to correct this defect.

         III. LEGAL STANDARD

         Under 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)).

         Third, 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.

         Fourth, 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).

         Fifth, 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).

         It is 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. 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.

         To 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 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 proper hypothetical questions which fairly set forth the claimant's physical impairment; and
(7) The testimony of consulting physicians.

Brand v. Sec'y of Dep't of Health, Educ. & Welfare, 623 F.2d 523, 527 (8th Cir. 1980).

         IV. ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.