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Kinder v. Berryhill

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Southeastern Division

March 30, 2017

MARK KINDER, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ABBIE CRITES-LEONI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Mark Kinder 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 Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the Social Security Act.

         An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that, despite Kinder's multiple 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.

         This 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.

         For the reasons discussed below, the decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed.

         I. Procedural History

         Kinder filed his application for SSI on August 19, 2012. (Tr. 148-49.) He alleged that he became disabled on June 19, 2012, due to neck and back problems, anxiety, depression, possible high blood pressure, right shoulder pain, numbness in his left leg and feet, general weakness in his lower body, and “extreme pain all over.” (Tr. 148-49, 243.) Kinder's claim was denied initially. (Tr. 162-65.) Following an administrative hearing, Kinder's claim was denied in a written opinion by an ALJ, dated September 12, 2014. (Tr. 13-21.) Kinder 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 November 18, 2015. (Tr. 9, 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.

         In the instant action, Kinder argues that the ALJ erred “in failing to provide an RFC supported by substantial evidence in that the ALJ did not properly weigh the opinion of the treating nurse practitioner and did not perform an adequate credibility analysis before discounting Kinder's reports of limitations.” (Doc. 17 at 8.)

         II. The ALJ's Determination

         The ALJ found that Kinder had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his application date of August 17, 2012. (Tr. 15.)

         In addition, the ALJ concluded that Kinder had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical and lumbar spine, anxiety, and migraine headaches. Id. The ALJ found that Kinder 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.

         As to Kinder's RFC, the ALJ stated:

After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that the claimant has the residual functional capacity (RFC) to perform light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b) except he can occasionally climb ramps and stairs, and crouch. He should never climb ladders, ropes, or scaffolds, kneel or crawl. He should avoid concentrated exposure to vibration and hazards such as unprotected heights and dangerous machinery. He should avoid moderate exposure to irritants such as fumes, odors, and strong chemicals and fresh paint. He is capable of performing simple, routine tasks in a low stress work environment, which is defined as where there is only occasional contact with supervisors, co-workers, and the general public, and only occasional workplace changes. He should be able to sit or stand for 1-3 minutes every hour while remaining at his workstation.

(Tr. 17.)

         In determining Kinder's RFC, the ALJ found that Kinder's allegations regarding his limitations were not entirely credible. (Tr. 18.) The ALJ also discredited the opinion of Kinder's treating nurse practitioner Kathleen Arnzen, FNP. (Tr. 19.)

         The ALJ found that Kinder was unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. 20.) The ALJ noted that a vocational expert testified that Kinder could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, such as electrical accessory assembler and bench assembler. (Tr. 21.) The ALJ therefore concluded that Kinder has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since August 17, 2012. Id.

         The ALJ's final decision reads as follows:

Based on the application for supplemental security income filed on August 17, 2012, the claimant is not disabled under section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act.

Id.

         III. Applicable Law III.

         A. Standard of Review

         The 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).

         To determine whether the Commissioner's decision is supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole, the Court must review ...


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