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Kimmel v. Berryhill

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

March 24, 2017

DAVID L. KIMMEL, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL[1], Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          NANNETTE A. BAKER, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         This is an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying David Kimmel's application for disability insurance benefits and supplemental security income under the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 416, 423 et seq. Kimmel alleged disability due to spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, lumbargo, paracardites, pleurisy, cervicaligia, sciatica, possible chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, possible hemochromatosis, and possible congestive heart failure. (Tr.172.) The parties have consented to the exercise of authority by the undersigned United States Magistrate Judge pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). [Doc. 12.] The Court has reviewed the parties' briefs and the entire administrative record, including the hearing transcripts and the medical evidence. The Court heard oral argument in this matter on January 5, 2017. For the reasons set forth below, the Court will affirm the Commissioner's final decision.

         I. Issues for Review

         Kimmel presents five issues for review. Kimmel contends that the administrative law judge (ALJ) erred by failing to find that he met Listing 1.04. Second, he states that the residual functional capacity (RFC) determination failed to include detailed findings that support the ALJ's determination of his limitations. Third, Kimmel contends that the ALJ erred by not giving appropriate weight to the medical source statement from a nurse practitioner. Fourth, Kimmel states that the ALJ also failed to give the proper weight to the opinions of his sister-in-law and sister. Finally, Kimmel states that the ALJ erred by relying upon the vocational expert's testimony that he could perform sedentary work. The Commissioner asserts that the ALJ's decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole and should be affirmed.

         II. Standard or Review

         The Social Security Act defines disability as an “inability 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 has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months.” 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i)(1)(A), 423(d)(1)(A).

         The Social Security Administration (SSA) uses a five-step analysis to determine whether a claimant seeking disability benefits is in fact disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(1), 416.920(a)(1). First, the claimant must not be engaged in substantial gainful activity. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(i), 416.920(a)(4)(i). Second, the claimant must establish that he or she has an impairment or combination of impairments that significantly limits his or her ability to perform basic work activities and meets the durational requirements of the Act. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(ii), 416.920(a)(4)(ii). Third, the claimant must establish that his or her impairment meets or equals an impairment listed in the appendix to the applicable regulations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iii), 416.920(a)(4)(iii). If the claimant's impairments do not meet or equal a listed impairment, the SSA determines the claimant's residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e), 416.920(e).

         Fourth, the claimant must establish that the impairment prevents him or her from doing past relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(iv), 416.920(a)(4)(iv). If the claimant meets this burden, the analysis proceeds to step five. At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to establish that the claimant maintains the RFC to perform a significant number of jobs in the national economy. Singh v. Apfel, 222 F.3d 448, 451 (8th Cir. 2000). If the claimant satisfies all of the criteria under the five-step evaluation, the ALJ will find the claimant to be disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(a)(4)(v), 416.920(a)(4)(v).

         The standard of review is narrow. Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir. 2001). This Court reviews decisions of the ALJ to determine whether the decision is supported by substantial evidence in the record as a whole. 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). Substantial evidence is less than a preponderance, but enough that a reasonable mind would find adequate support for the ALJ's decision. Smith v. Shalala, 31 F.3d 715, 717 (8th Cir. 1994). The court determines whether evidence is substantial by considering evidence that detracts from the Commissioner's decision as well as evidence that supports it. Cox v. Barnhart, 471 F.3d 902, 906 (8th Cir. 2006). The Court may not reverse just because substantial evidence exists that would support a contrary outcome or because the Court would have decided the case differently. Id. If, after reviewing the record as a whole, the Court finds it possible to draw two inconsistent positions from the evidence and one of those positions represents the Commissioner's finding, the Commissioner's decision must be affirmed. Masterson v. Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 736 (8th Cir. 2004). To determine whether the ALJ's final decision is supported by substantial evidence, the Court is required to review the administrative record as a whole to consider:

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

Brand v. Sec'y of Dept. of Health, Educ. & Welfare, 623 F.2d 523, 527 (8th Cir. 1980).

         III. Discussion

         A. ...


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