United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Northern Division
DAVID B. SONGER, Plaintiff,
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Administration, Defendant.
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 under Title II, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401 et seq. and for denial of his application
for supplemental security income (SSI) benefits under Title
XVI, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381 et seq. of the Social
Security Act (Act), 1381, et seq. For the reasons
set forth below, the Court will affirm the Commissioner's
denial of Plaintiff's applications.
August 21, 2014, Administrative Law Judge Carol L. Boorady
conducted a hearing. Plaintiff appeared in person and the
Vocational Expert, Stephen Kuhn, appeared as well.
resided in a single family house located in Kirksville,
Missouri. Plaintiff is married and resides with his wife. He
has 4 children aged 12, 17, 21, and 27. Plaintiff was born on
September 10, 1964. He was 49 years old at the time of the
hearing. Plaintiff completed high school.
has prior work experience with a company named Ortech. He
worked for them for about 22 years. He also worked for a
company called Contico for about one year.
further examination by his attorney the Plaintiff testified,
that he is being treated for depression, anxiety, and being
treated with a mood stabilizer. He has been diagnosed with
bipolar disorder and has hypomanic episodes. Plaintiff
testified that when he has hypomanic episodes they can last
for up to four or five days. He testified he has running
thoughts and his brain won't shut down. He can't
sleep and has urges to spend money. .
was testimony from Mr. Kuhn, the Vocational Expert. Mr. Kuhn
testified and classified the past work experience of the
Plaintiff in relation to the Dictionary of Occupational
Titles. The Vocational Expert concluded Plaintiff could not
perform his relevant past work. Based upon all of those
considerations and the stated hypotheticals of the ALJ,
including stated limitations, the Vocational Expert concluded
that if the hypothetical person was missing four days per
month they would not be able to maintain work. That is
something not supported by the Dictionary of Occupational
Titles, but based upon the education, training, and work
experience of the Vocational Expert. Likewise if the person
was off task by 25 percent or more of the day the person
would not be able to maintain work. Without missing days of
work as a factor there were jobs at the medium work level
available for Plaintiff as a cleaner, hand packer, assembler,
hand packer at the light work level, and cleaner at the light
work level. These were consistent with and in consideration
of the Dictionary of Occupational Titles.
determined that Plaintiff was not entitled to a finding of
disabled. The Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request
for review on January 27, 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
the ALJ properly applied Listing 12.04 to the evidence of
record, whether the ALJ properly considered the credibility
of Plaintiff, and whether the ALJ properly weighed all
medical evidence in the determination of the RFC of
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 ...