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Wiseman v. Berryhill

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

March 23, 2017

STEVEN J. WISEMAN, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1]Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ABBIE CRITES-LEONI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Steven Wiseman brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the Social Security Administration Commissioner's denial of his application for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title II of the Social Security Act and Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Act.

         An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that, despite Wiseman's severe impairments, he was not disabled as he had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy.

         This matter is pending before the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge, with consent of the parties, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). A summary of the entire record is presented in the parties' briefs and is repeated here only to the extent necessary.

         For the following reasons, the decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed.

         I. Procedural History

         Wiseman filed his applications for DIB and SSI on March 4, 2013. (Tr. 158-71.) He alleged that he became disabled on June 8, 2012, due to left eye blindness, right hip pain, and right ankle problems. (Tr. 158-71, 210.) Wiseman's claims were denied initially. (Tr. 69-73.) Following an administrative hearing, Wiseman's claims were denied in a written opinion by an ALJ, dated October 24, 2014. (Tr. 19-27.) Wiseman then filed a request for review of the ALJ's decision with the Appeals Council of the Social Security Administration (SSA), which was denied on October 14, 2015. (Tr. 15, 1-6.) Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See 20 C.F.R. '' 404.981, 416.1481.

         In the instant action, Wiseman first claims that the ALJ “erred in failing to properly analyze the opinion evidence of treating physician Trone in that the ALJ did not give good reasons for rejecting Dr. Trone's opinion that Plaintiff could only stand two hours out of an eight hour work day and sit two hours out of an eight hour work day and that Plaintiff would miss two or more days per month in that the ALJ did not consider the length of Plaintiff's treatment by Dr. Trone, the frequency of this examinations, the nature and extent of the treatment relationship, the supportability of Dr. Trone's opinion, the consistency of the opinion with the record as a whole, or Dr. Trone's specialization.” (Doc. 17-1 at 16.) Wiseman next argues that the ALJ erred “in analyzing Plaintiff's credibility in that the ALJ did not point to any inconsistencies in Plaintiff's testimony that would logically detract from Plaintiff's allegation of disabling pain and therefore the ALJ's decision finding Plaintiff not disabled was not supported by substantial evidence on the whole record.” Id. at 20. Finally, Wiseman argues that the “ALJ decision has affirmed by the Appeals Council it was not based on substantial evidence in that the Appeals Council did not consider the evidence presented about Plaintiff's prescription for a cane and the Appeals Council did not consider the Medical Vocational Guidelines as to Plaintiff's eligibility under the Guidelines after his 55th birthday on April 15, 2015.” Id. at 23.

         II. The ALJ's Determination

         The ALJ first stated that Wiseman met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2016. (Tr. 21.) The ALJ found that Wiseman had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of June 8, 2012. Id.

         In addition, the ALJ concluded that Wiseman had the following severe impairments: degenerative joint disease in the hip and ankle; blind left eye; and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Id. The ALJ found that Wiseman did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or equals in severity the requirements of any impairment listed in 20 C.F.R. Part 404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 22.)

         As to Wiseman's RFC, the ALJ stated:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b) except he requires a sit/stand option allowing him to sit or stand alternatively at will provided he is not off task for more than 10 percent of the work period. He cannot climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. He can occasionally climb ramps or stairs. He can occasionally stoop, kneel, crouch, and crawl. He must avoid concentrated exposure to poorly ventilated areas. He must avoid all use of hazardous machinery, defined as unshielded, moving machinery and all exposure to unprotected heights. He is limited to occupations that do not require peripheral acuity. He is limited to occupations with no strict production quota with the emphasis being on a per shift, rather than a per hour basis. Meaning, the employer requires so many widgets per day versus so many widgets per hour.

         (Tr. 23.)

         The ALJ found that Wiseman's allegations regarding his limitations were not entirely credible. (Tr. 24.) In determining Wiseman's RFC, the ALJ indicated that he was assigning “partial weight” to the opinion of consultative examiner Dennis A. Velez, M.D. Id. The ALJ assigned “little weight” to the opinion of treating physician, Aaron M. Trone, D.O. (Tr. 25.)

         The ALJ further found that Wiseman is unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. 26.) The ALJ noted that a vocational expert testified that Wiseman could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, such as garment sorter, folding machine operator, and lens matcher. (Tr. 27.) The ALJ therefore concluded that Wiseman has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from June 8, 2012, through the date of the decision. Id.

         The ALJ's final decision reads as follows:

Based on the application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits protectively filed on March 4, 2013, the claimant is not disabled as defined in sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act.
Based on the application for supplemental security income filed on March 4, 2013, the claimant is not disabled under section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act.

Id.

         III. Applicable Law

         III.A. Standard of Review

         The decision of the Commissioner must be affirmed if it is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g); Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389, 401 (1971); Estes v. Barnhart, 275 F.3d 722, 724 (8th Cir. 2002). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance of the evidence, 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). This “substantial evidence test, ” however, is “more than a mere search of the record for evidence supporting the Commissioner's findings.” Coleman v. Astrue, 498 F.3d 767, 770 (8th Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). “Substantial evidence on the record as a whole . . . requires a more scrutinizing analysis.” Id. (internal quotation marks and citations omitted).

         To determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, the Court must review ...


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