United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern Division
TANA L. MURPHY, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.
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 Tana L. Murphy (“Plaintiff”) 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. 17) and Defendant has filed a brief in
support of the Answer (Doc. 22). The parties have consented
to the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States
Magistrate Judge pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(c)
filed her applications for DIB and SSI on July 12, 2012 (Tr.
226-36). Plaintiff was initially denied on September 19,
2012, and she filed a Request for Hearing before an
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) on October 5,
2012 (Tr. 142-51). After a hearing, by decision dated March
31, 2014, the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled (Tr. 15-41).
On August 31, 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 September 30,
2015, and had not engaged in substantial gainful activity
since May 1, 2010, the alleged onset date of disability (Tr.
20). The ALJ found Plaintiff has the severe impairments of
minimal lower lumbar degenerative facet changes, diabetes
mellitus, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and bipolar II
disorder, 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. 21-23).
considering the entire record, the ALJ determined Plaintiff
has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform sedentary work as defined in 20 C.F.R. §
404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) with the following limitations
(Tr. 23). She is unable to perform work that requires
climbing on ropes, ladders, or scaffolds; can perform no more
than occasional climbing on ramps and stairs, and no more
than occasional stooping, kneeling, crouching, or crawling
(Id.). She should avoid concentrated exposure to
extreme cold, vibration, and work hazards such as unprotected
heights and being around dangerous moving machinery (Tr.
23-24). She is able to understand, remember and carry out
simple instructions consistent with unskilled work, perform
only simple decision making related to basic work functions,
and tolerate only minor infrequent changes within the
workplace (Tr. 24). She can tolerate only occasional contact
with the general public (Id.). She also requires a
sit stand option allowing a change in position every 30 to 60
minutes for a few minutes at a time while remaining at the
work station (Id.). The ALJ found Plaintiff unable
to perform any past relevant work, but that there are jobs
that exist in significant numbers in the national economy
that she can perform, including document preparer, ampoule
sealer, and assembly small plastic products (Tr. 32-33).
Thus, the ALJ concluded that a finding of “not
disabled” was appropriate (Tr. 33). Plaintiff appeals,
arguing a lack of substantial evidence to support the
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. Instead, the district court must simply determine
whether the quantity and quality of evidence is enough so
that a reasonable mind might find it adequate to support the
ALJ's conclusion. Davis v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 962,
966 (8th Cir. 2001) (citing McKinney v. Apfel, 228
F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2000)). 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