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Lewis v. Berryhill

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

March 30, 2017

SHANNON MARIE LEWIS, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1]Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ABBIE CRITES-LEONI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Shannon Lewis brings this action pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), seeking judicial review of the Social Security Administration Commissioner's denial of her 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.

         An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that, despite Lewis' severe impairments, she was not disabled as she 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 following reasons, the matter is reversed and remanded for further proceedings.

         I. Procedural History

         Lewis protectively filed her applications for DIB and SSI on July 31, 2012. (Tr. 17, 214-20, 221-26.) She alleged that she became disabled on March 9, 2011, due to chronic erythema multiforme, [2] bipolar disorder, anxiety, panic, and irritable bowel syndrome (“IBS”). (Tr. 214-26, 275.) Lewis' claims were denied initially. (Tr. 130-31, 137-43.) Following an administrative hearing, Lewis' claims were denied in a written opinion by an ALJ, dated June 4, 2014. (Tr. 17-28.) Lewis 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. 6, 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, Lewis claims that the ALJ “failed to properly consider opinion evidence.” (Doc. 15 at 3.)

         II. The ALJ's Determination

         The ALJ stated that Lewis met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2016. (Tr. 19.) The ALJ found that Lewis had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since her alleged onset date of March 9, 2011. Id.

         In addition, the ALJ concluded that Lewis had the following severe impairments: depression and an anxiety disorder with panic attacks. (Tr. 20.) The ALJ found that Lewis 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 Lewis' RFC, the ALJ stated:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds 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: the claimant is able to perform very simple jobs, defined as work involving only one to two-step tasks. She must work in a job involving only occasional decision-making, no significant changes in the work setting, end-of-workday production quotas, and only occasional interaction with the public, co-workers and supervisors, with no performance of tandem tasks.

(Tr. 21.)

         The ALJ found that Lewis' allegations regarding her limitations were not entirely credible. (Tr. 26.) In determining Lewis' RFC, the ALJ indicated that she was assigning “some weight” to the opinion of non-examining state agency psychiatrist, Lester Bland, Psy.D. (Tr. 24.) The ALJ accorded “little weight” to the opinion of treating psychiatrist Jordan Balter, M.D. Id.

         The ALJ further found that Lewis is unable to perform any past relevant work. (Tr. 26.) The ALJ noted that a vocational expert testified that Lewis could perform jobs existing in significant numbers in the national economy, such as silver wrapper, and hand trimmer. (Tr. 27.) The ALJ therefore concluded that Lewis has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from March 9, 2011, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 28.)

         The ALJ's final decision reads as follows:

Based on the application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits filed on July 31, 2012, the claimant is not disabled under sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act.
Based on the application for supplemental security income protectively field on July 31, 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 the entire administrative record and consider:

1. The credibility findings made by the ALJ.
2. The plaintiff's vocational factors.
3. The medical evidence from treating and consulting ...

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