United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern 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
March 16, 2016, Administrative Law Judge Bradley Hanan
conducted a hearing. Plaintiff and the Vocational Expert both
appeared. Plaintiff was born on April 21, 1977. She was 37
years old at the time of the hearing. Plaintiff did not
complete high school; she has a GED. Plaintiff was working
part time at a restaurant at the time of the hearing.
testified that she could not work because of pain and having
to “run to the bathroom” between 6-16 times per
day. She formerly used alcohol and illegal drugs, but had not
used either in the last year. She has received three DUI
charges, the last being in 2012.
testified she suffers from anxiety which causes her to have a
racing heart, shortness of breath. She cannot concentrate and
she becomes frustrated. These episodes last about 10 minutes
and she has them a few times per week. Plaintiff also
testified she has lupus which causes her to have burning
rashes and pain in her joints. She experiences flare ups
roughly every other day. She has been prescribed medication
and uses a cream for her joints. Plaintiff testified she has
migraine headaches. For the past few months, she had been
getting migraines almost every day, and somewhat
inconsistently, Plaintiff testified that that lasted one to
three days. With respect to her Hepatitis C, Plaintiff
testified she was advised to start taking Interferon, and
that because it was caught early, it might be curable.
determined that the record needed to be further developed
regarding Plaintiff's mental assertions. He concluded
that Plaintiff needed an internal examination as well as a
also secured testimony of Ms. Young, a Vocational Expert. Ms.
Young testified and classified the past work experience of
the Plaintiff in relation to the Dictionary of Occupational
determined that Plaintiff was not entitled to a finding of
disabled. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review on January 5, 2016. 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;