United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
OPINION, MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
EDWARD AUTREY UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the Court on Plaintiff's request for
judicial review under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) of the final
decision of Defendant denying Plaintiff's application for
disability insurance benefits and supplemental security
income under Titles II and XVI of the Social Security Act
(Act), 42 U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq. and 1381,
et seq. For the reasons set forth below, the Court
will affirm the Commissioner's denial of Plaintiff's
9, 2014, Administrative Law Judge Brad Davis conducted a
video hearing. Plaintiff and the Vocational Expert both
appeared. Plaintiff appeared in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The
Administrative Law Judge presided over the hearing from St.
Louis, Missouri. Plaintiff was born on March 20, 1960. She
was 54years old at the time of the hearing. Plaintiff did not
complete high school and she does not have a GED. Her highest
level of completion is the 11th grade.
testified that she had a massive heart attack on November 28,
2012 and that she was not employed at the time. Plaintiff
also testified that she gets short of breath at times and is
easily fatigued; has diabetes and associated neuropathy;
occasionally suffers from blurry vision; suffers from acid
testified, on examination by the ALJ, that when she gets up
in the morning she makes breakfast for herself and her
husband and tries to clean up. Afterwards she takes a rest
break and watches television. She stated she gets very
fatigued and has to work in intervals. She does not drive
very frequently and has a friend help her with grocery
also secured testimony of Dr. Thomas Upton, a Vocational
Expert. Dr. Upton testified and classified the past work
experience of the Plaintiff in relation to the Dictionary of
Occupational Titles. Based upon all of those considerations
and the stated hypotheticals of the ALJ, including stated
limitations, the Vocational Expert concluded there were jobs
available for Plaintiff as a press feeder, cashier II, food
preparation in fast food, housekeeper.
determined that Plaintiff was not entitled to a finding of
disabled. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review on August 27, 2015. The decision of the ALJ is now
the final decision for review by this court.
issues in a Social Security case are whether the final
decision of the Commissioner is consistent with the Social
Security Act, regulations, and applicable case law, and
whether the findings of fact by the ALJ are supported by
substantial evidence on the record as a whole. Here the
Plaintiff asserts the specific issue in this case is whether
substantial evidence in the record supports the ALJ's
evaluation of Plaintiff's subjective complaints and the
medical opinion evidence.
for Determining Disability
Social Security Act defines as disabled a person who is
“unable 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 twelve months.” 42 U.S.C. §
1382c(a)(3)(A); see also Hurd v. Astrue, 621 F.3d
734, 738 (8th Cir.2010). The impairment must be “of
such severity that [the claimant] 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, regardless
of whether such work exists in the immediate area in which he
lives, or whether a specific job vacancy exists for him, or
whether he would be hired if he applied for work.” 42
U.S.C. § 1382c(a)(3)(B).
five-step regulatory framework is used to determine whether
an individual claimant qualifies for disability benefits. 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a), 416.920(a); see also
McCoy v. Astrue, 648 F.3d 605, 611 (8th Cir.2011)
(discussing the five-step process). At Step One, the ALJ
determines whether the claimant is currently engaging in
“substantial gainful activity”; if so, then he is
not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(I),
416.920(a)(4)(I); McCoy, 648 F.3d at 611. At Step
Two, the ALJ determines whether the claimant has a severe
impairment, which is “any impairment or combination of
impairments which significantly limits [the claimant's]
physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities”; if the claimant does not have a severe
impairment, he is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(a) (4)(ii), 404.1520(c), 416.920(a)(4)(ii),
416.920(c); McCoy, 648 F.3d at 611. At Step Three,
the ALJ evaluates whether the claimant's impairment meets
or equals one of the impairments listed in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (the “listings”). 20
C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii).
If the claimant has such an impairment, the Commissioner will
find the claimant disabled; if not, the ALJ proceeds with the
rest of the five-step process. 20 C.F.R. §§
404.1520(d), 416.920(d); McCoy, 648 F.3d at 611.
to Step Four, the ALJ must assess the claimant's
“residual functional capacity”
(“RFC”), which is “the most a claimant can
do despite [his] limitations.” Moore v.
Astrue, 572 F.3d 520, 523 (8th Cir.2009) (citing 20
C.F.R. § 404.1545 (a) (1)); see also 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e). At Step Four, the ALJ
determines whether the claimant can return to his past
relevant work, by comparing the claimant's RFC with the
physical and mental demands of the claimant's past
relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a) (4) (iv),
404.1520(f), 416.920(a) (4) (iv), 416.920(f); McCoy,
648 F.3d at 611. If the claimant can perform his past
relevant work, he is not disabled; if the claimant cannot,
the analysis proceeds to the next step. Id... At
Step Five, the ALJ considers the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and work experience to determine whether the
claimant can make an adjustment to other work in the national
economy; if the claimant cannot make an adjustment to other
work, the claimant will be found disabled. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v);
McCoy, 648 F.3d at 611.
Step Four, the burden remains with the claimant to prove that
he is disabled. Moore, 572 F.3d at 523. At Step
Five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to establish that
the claimant maintains the RFC to perform a significant
number of jobs within the national economy. Id.; Brock v.
Astrue, 674 F.3d 1062, 1064 (8th Cir.2012).
claimant's Residual Functional Capacity (RFC) is the most
an individual can do despite the combined effects of all of
his or her credible limitations. See 20 C.F.R.
§ 404.1545. An ALJ's RFC finding is based on all of
the record evidence, including the claimant's testimony
regarding symptoms and limitations, the claimant's
medical treatment records, and the medical opinion evidence.
See Wildman v. Astrue, 596 F.3d 959, 969 (8th
Cir.2010); see also 20 C.F.R. § 404.1545;
Social Security Ruling (SSR) 96-8p. An ALJ may discredit a
claimant's subjective allegations of disabling symptoms
to the extent they are inconsistent with the overall record
as a whole, including: the objective medical evidence and
medical opinion evidence; the claimant's daily
activities; the duration, frequency, and intensity of pain;
dosage, effectiveness, and side effects of medications and
medical treatment; and the claimant's self-imposed
restrictions. See Polaski v. Heckler, 739 F.2d 1320,
1322 (8th Cir.1984); 20 C.F.R. § 404.1529; SSR 96-7p.
claimant's subjective complaints may not be disregarded
solely because the objective medical evidence does not fully
support them. The absence of objective medical evidence is
just one factor to be considered in evaluating the
claimant's credibility and complaints. The ALJ must fully
consider all of the evidence presented relating to subjective
complaints, including the claimant's prior ...