United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
CRITES-LEONI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Jacob Garner 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 Garner's severe 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 decision of the Commissioner will be
filed his applications for DIB and SSI on March 26, 2013.
(Tr. 164-76.) He alleged that he became disabled on October
30, 2008, due to bipolar disorder, obesity, depression,
anxiety and panic attacks, memory issues, schizoaffective
disorder, paranoia, high blood pressure, hypertension,
shortness of breath, insomnia, and acid reflux. (Tr. 164-76,
213.) Garner's claims were denied initially. (Tr.
107-08.) Following an administrative hearing, Garner's
claims were denied in a written opinion by an ALJ, dated June
20, 2014. (Tr. 11-27.) Garner 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
September 25, 2015. (Tr. 7, 1-5.) 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, Garner first claims that the ALJ
“failed to properly weigh the opinion of the treating
physician in accord with SSR 96-2p because the ALJ failed to
give good reasons for giving little weight to the
well-supported opinion of Dr. Caruso.” (Doc. 15 at 9.)
Garner also argues that the ALJ erred by “failing to
provide a proper credibility analysis as required by SSR
97-7p in that the ALJ failed to base the analysis on the
substantial evidence of record.” Id. at 16.
The ALJ's Determination
first addressed the fact that Garner filed prior applications
for benefits under Titles II and XVI on January 13, 2010,
alleging a disability onset date of October 30, 2008. (Tr.
14.) These claims were denied initially, and were denied by
an ALJ on March 1, 2012, after a hearing was held.
Id. The Appeals Council denied Garner's request
for review on March 2, 2013. Id. The ALJ noted that
Garner was alleging the same onset date of disability that he
had alleged in his prior applications-October 30, 2008. (Tr.
15.) The ALJ found that there was no basis for reopening the
prior applications, and that the prior decision was final and
binding. Id. He therefore only addressed
the issue of whether Garner became disabled after March 1,
2012, the date of the prior unfavorable decision.
stated that Garner met the insured status requirements of the
Social Security Act through September 30, 2013. (Tr. 17.) The ALJ
found that Garner had not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since his alleged onset date of October 30, 2008.
addition, the ALJ concluded that Garner had the following
severe impairments: schizoaffective disorder, bipolar
disorder, depression, anxiety, hypertension, and morbid
obesity. Id. The ALJ found that Garner 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. (Tr. 18.)
Garner's RFC, the ALJ stated:
After careful consideration of the entire record, the
undersigned finds that the claimant has the residual
functional capacity to perform light work as defined in 20
CFR 404.1567(b) and 416.967(b), meaning the claimant is able
to lift and carry 20 pounds occasionally and 10 pounds
frequently, stand and/or walk 6 hours in an 8-hour workday,
and sit 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. The claimant is limited
to performing simple, routine, and repetitive tasks that
would not involve fast-paced production work such as an
assembly line worker. The claimant is limited to only
occasional contact with the public and co-workers and limited
to tasks with no more than occasional changes in a routine
work setting. In addition, the claimant must avoid work
hazards such as exposure to unprotected heights and dangerous
found that Garner's allegations regarding his limitations
were not entirely credible. (Tr. 21.) In determining
Garner's RFC, the ALJ indicated that he was assigning
“little weight” to the opinion of treating
psychiatrist Dawn Caruso, M.D. (Tr. 25.) The ALJ assigned
“significant weight” to the opinion of examining
psychologist Georgette Johnson, Psy.D; and
“considerable weight” to the opinion of state
agency medical consultant Keith Allen, Ph.D. Id. The
ALJ also noted that he was giving “little weight”
to the GAF score of 41-50 assessed by Courtney Johnson,
further found that Garner is unable to perform any past
relevant work. Id. The ALJ noted that a vocational
expert testified that Garner could perform jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy, such as hand
washer, ejection molder, and housekeeper/maid. (Tr. 26.) The
ALJ therefore concluded that Garner has not been under a
disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from
October 30, 2008, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 27.)
ALJ's final decision reads as follows:
Based on the application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits filed on March 25, 2013, the
claimant is not disabled as defined in sections 216(i) and
223(d) of the Social Security Act.
Based on the application for supplemental security income
filed on March 25, 2013, the claimant is not disabled under
section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act.
A. 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 ...