United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
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 Jackie Mattison (“Plaintiff” or
“Mattison”) 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. No. 12)
as well as a reply brief (Doc. No. 18). Defendant has filed
both a brief in support of the Answer (Doc. No. 17) and a
sur-reply brief (Doc. No. 21). The parties have consented to
the jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) (Doc. No. 7).
is a 36 year-old male who, at the time of the hearing in this
matter, resided in a house with his mother and grandmother in
Summersville, Missouri. (Tr. 32-33, 140). He had never lived
independently. (Tr. 33). Plaintiff stands 5'4” tall
and weighed 270 pounds. (Tr. 35). He completed high school
with the help of Special Education. (Tr. 35, 47). In sixth
grade, Plaintiff scored a Verbal IQ of 66, a Performance IQ
of 57, and a Full Scale IQ of 58. (Tr. 202). At that time, he
also scored an Adaptive Behavior Quotient of 88 on the
Adaptive Behavior Evaluation Scale (“ABES”), with
a margin of error of ±5.53, with a “task-related
behavior” subscale score of 6. (Tr. 203). Plaintiff can
read and write and can do simple arithmetic with some
difficulty. (Tr. 35). He is able to use a cell phone, send
text messages to his mother, and had used a computer at the
public library to look up “dog stuff.” (Tr. 36).
He passed his driver's license test on his third try,
with someone reading him the exam. (Tr. 49-50). He helps with
the housework, cooks a little, washes dishes, helps with the
laundry and mows the lawn. (Tr.45-46). He is able to go
grocery shopping independently and he drives his grandmother
to appointments if his mother is working, as his grandmother
had suffered two strokes. (Tr. 33, 46-47).
suffers from metabolic acidosis (renal tubular acidosis) with
hypokalemia (low potassium). (Tr. 219-220). He also has an
enlarged right ventricle in his heart, with mild thickening
of his mitral valve leaflets. (Tr. 293-294). He describes the
symptoms as having “spells” where he feels a
heavy pressure on his chest, racing pulse, dizziness, blurred
vision and difficulty moving his legs. (Tr. 51-53). He takes
potassium supplements for his condition. (Tr. 44).
has held several jobs. From 2007 to 2009, he worked as a
laborer for the Canal Barge Company making approximately $18,
000 per year. (Tr. 165). He left that job due to his
hypokalemia, which caused him to miss shifts. (Tr. 42).
Plaintiff also worked for two months at the McBride Saw Mill,
owned by his uncle and cousin, making sure nothing fell in
between the rollers or jammed them up. (Tr. 40, 43). He also
worked helping with handling the animals at livestock
auctions. (Tr. 38-39).
filed his applications for DIB on January 31, 2013 and SSI on
February 6, 2013 (Tr. 74-75). He alleged an onset date of
September 1, 2003, later amended to September 1, 2009. (Tr.
30, 135, 139). In the instant matter, Plaintiff's claim
was initially denied on May 9, 2013, and he filed a Request
for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) on June 4, 2013 (Tr. 78-87).
held a hearing on May 1, 2014. (Tr. 25). During the course of
that hearing, Plaintiff's attorney at the time requested
that the ALJ further develop the record as to Plaintiff's
current intelligence scores, as the last relevant testing had
been conducted when Plaintiff was in sixth grade. (Tr. 29-30,
200-209). The ALJ stated he would “take that under
consideration [.]” (Tr. 30). After the hearing, by
decision (“Decision”) dated August 4, 2014, the
ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled (Tr. 10-21). On December 29,
2015, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review. (Tr. 1). As such, the ALJ's Decision stands as
the final decision of the Commissioner.
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, always 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 ...