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 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).
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
DECISION OF 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).
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.).
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).
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.
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. 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
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).