United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CRITES-LEONI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Michael Frederick 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.
Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that,
despite Frederick's severe mental 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.
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.
following reasons, the matter is reversed and remanded for
protectively filed his applications for DIB and SSI on
November 21, 2011, and November 18, 2013, respectively. (Tr.
122-28, 1593B-H.) He alleged that he became disabled on May
1, 2010, due to schizophrenia and depression. (Tr. 170.)
Frederick's claims were denied initially. (Tr. 42-46.)
Following an administrative hearing, Frederick's claims
were denied in a written opinion by an ALJ, dated May 27,
2014. (Tr. 14-26.) Frederick 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
June 11, 2015. (Tr. 27, 7-10.) Thus, the decision of the ALJ
stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.
See 20 C.F.R. '' 404.981, 416.1481.
instant action, Frederick claims that the ALJ failed to
properly evaluate Frederick's RFC. Frederick also argues
that the ALJ failed to properly evaluate the opinion
The ALJ's Determination
stated that Frederick met the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act through September 30,
2011. (Tr. 16.) The ALJ found that Frederick had
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged
onset date of May 1, 2010. Id.
addition, the ALJ concluded that Frederick had the following
severe impairments: schizophrenia and depression. (Tr. 17.)
The ALJ found that Frederick 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. Id.
Frederick's RFC, the ALJ stated:
After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that
the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform
a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the
following nonexertional limitations: he can only understand,
remember, and carry out simple, repetitive tasks. He can have
occasional interaction with supervisors, co-workers, and the
public. He can have no transactional interactions with the
public, and he is limited to performing in low stress jobs,
defined as requiring only occasional decision-making, and
having occasional change in work setting.
found that Frederick's allegations regarding his
limitations were not entirely credible. (Tr. 19.) In
determining Frederick's RFC, the ALJ indicated that she
was assigning “strongest weight” to the opinion
of treating psychiatrist Adarsh S. Reddy, M.D. (Tr. 24.) The
ALJ discredited the opinions of treating psychiatrists Angela
Reiersen, M.D., and Marie Gebara, M.D.; and of treating
counselor, Brooke Justis, MSW, LCSW. (Tr. 21-23.)
further found that Frederick is unable to perform any past
relevant work. (Tr. 24.) The ALJ noted that a vocational
expert testified that Frederick could perform jobs existing
in significant numbers in the national economy, such as
addresser, collator operator, or housekeeper. (Tr. 25.) The
ALJ therefore concluded that Frederick has not been under a
disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from May
1, 2010, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 26.)
ALJ's final decision reads as follows:
Based on the application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits protectively filed on November
21, 2011, the claimant is not disabled as defined in sections
216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act prior to
September 30, 2011.
Based on the application for supplemental security income
protectively filed on November 18, 2013, the claimant is not
disabled under section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security
Standard of Review
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).
determine whether the Commissioner's decision is
supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole,
the Court must review the entire administrative record and
1. The credibility findings made by the ALJ.
2. The plaintiff's vocational factors.
3. The medical evidence from treating and consulting
4. The plaintiff's subjective complaints relating to
exertional and non-exertional activities and impairments.
5. Any corroboration by third parties of the plaintiff's
6. The testimony of vocational experts when required which is
based upon a proper hypothetical question which sets forth
the claimant's impairment.
Stewart v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs.,
957 F.2d 581, 585-86 (8th Cir. 1992) (internal citations
omitted). The Court must also consider any evidence which
fairly detracts from the Commissioner's decision.
Coleman, 498 F.3d at 770; Warburton v.
Apfel, 188 F.3d 1047, 1050 (8th Cir. 1999). However,
even though two inconsistent conclusions may be drawn from
the evidence, the Commissioner's findings may still be
supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.
Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217
(8th Cir. 2001) (citing Young v. Apfel,
221 F.3d 1065, 1068 (8th Cir. 2000)). “[I]f there is
substantial evidence on the record as a whole, we must affirm
the administrative decision, even if the record could also
have supported an opposite decision.” Weikert v.
Sullivan, 977 F.2d 1249, 1252 (8th Cir. 1992) (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted). See also Jones ex
rel. Morris v. Barnhart, 315 F.3d 974, 977 (8th Cir.
B. Determination of Disability
disability is defined as the 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 that has lasted or can be
expected to last for a continuous period of not less than
twelve months. 42 U.S.C. §§ 423(d)(1)(A),
1382c(a)(3)(A); 20 C.F.R. § 416.905. A claimant has a
disability when 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 significant numbers
either in the region where such individual lives or in
several regions of the country.” 42 U.S.C. §
determine whether a claimant has a disability within the
meaning of the Social Security Act, the Commissioner follows
a five-step sequential evaluation process outlined in the
regulations. 20 C.F.R. § 416.920; see Kirby v.
Astrue, 500 F.3d 705, 707 (8th Cir. 2007).
First, the Commissioner will consider a claimant's work
activity. If the claimant is engaged in substantial gainful
activity, then the claimant is not disabled. 20 C.F.R. §
if the claimant is not engaged in substantial gainful
activity, the Commissioner looks to see “whether the
claimant has a severe impairment that significantly limits
the claimant's physical or mental ability to perform
basic work activities.” Dixon v. Barnhart, 343
F.3d 602, 605 (8th Cir. 2003). “An
impairment is not severe if it amounts only to a slight
abnormality that would not significantly limit the
claimant's physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities.” Kirby, 500 F.3d at 707;
see 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(c), 416.921(a).
ability to do basic work activities is defined as “the
abilities and aptitudes necessary to do most jobs.” 20
C.F.R. § 416.921(b). These abilities and aptitudes
include (1) physical functions such as walking, standing,
sitting, lifting, pushing, pulling, reaching, carrying, or
handling; (2) capacities for seeing, hearing, and speaking;
(3) understanding, carrying out, and remembering simple
instructions; (4) use of judgment; (5) responding
appropriately to supervision, co-workers, and usual work
situations; and (6) dealing with changes in a routine work
setting. Id. § 416.921(b)(1)-(6); see Bowen
v. Yuckert, 482 U.S. 137, 141, 107 S.Ct. 2287, 2291
(1987). “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 her ability to work.” Page
v. Astrue, 484 F.3d 1040, 1043 (8th Cir.
2007) (internal quotation marks omitted).
if the claimant has a severe impairment, then the
Commissioner will consider the medical severity of the
impairment. If the impairment meets or equals one of the
presumptively disabling impairments listed in the
regulations, then the claimant is considered disabled,
regardless of age, education, and work experience. 20 C.F.R.