United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
A. ROSS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review
of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision
denying Plaintiff Tressia Wallace's ("Wallace")
application for disability insurance benefits under Title II
of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401,
Tressia Wallace filed an application for disability insurance
benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C.
§§ 401 et seq., on May 17, 2012 (Tr.
272-273.) The Social Security Administration denied
Wallace's claim on September 5, 2012 (Tr. 212-220.)
Wallace filed a timely request for a hearing before an
administrative law judge ("ALJ") (Tr. 230-231.)
Following an April 24, 2014 hearing (Tr. 165-188), the ALJ
issued a written decision on July 7, 2014, upholding the
denial of benefits (Tr. 189-211.) Wallace requested review of
the ALJ's decision by the Appeals Council (Tr. 161.) On
November 6, 2015, the Appeals Council denied her request for
review (Tr. 1-7.) Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the
final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v.
Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000).
filed this appeal on December 9, 2015 (Doc. No. 1.) The
Commissioner filed an Answer on March 3, 2016 (Doc. No. 14.)
Wallace filed a Brief in Support of her Complaint (Doc. No.
24), and the Commissioner filed a brief in support of the
Answer (Doc. No. 29.) Wallace has not filed a reply brief,
and time for her to do so has expired.
Commissioner attached a statement of facts to her Brief in
Support of the Answer; Wallace did not respond to the
Commissioner's statement of facts or submitted her own
statement of facts. The Court will therefore adopt the
Commissioner's Statement of Facts (Doc. No. 29-1), as the
Court's review of the record shows that the adopted facts
are accurate and complete. Specific facts will be discussed
as part of the analysis.
Social Security Act defines as disabled a person who is
"unable 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 which
has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period
of not less than twelve months." 42 U.S.C. §
1382c(a)(3)(A); see also Brantley v. Colvin, No.
4:10CV2184 HEA, 2013 WL 4007441, at *2 (E.D. Mo. Aug. 2,
2013). The impairment must be "of such severity that
[the claimant] is not only unable to do his previous work but
cannot, considering her age, education, and work experience,
engage in any other kind of substantial gainful work which
exists in the national economy, regardless of whether such
work exists in the immediate area in which she lives, or
whether a specific job vacancy exists for her, or whether she
would be hired if she applied for work." 42 U.S.C.
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(a), 404.1520(a).
"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)). First, the claimant must not be engaged in
"substantial gainful activity." 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(a), 404.1520(a). Second, the claimant
must have a "severe impairment, " defined as
"any impairment or combination of impairments which
significantly limits [claimant's] physical or mental
ability to do basic work activities." 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(c), 404.1520(c). "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)).
the claimant must establish that his or her impairment meets
or equals an impairment 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.
considering step four, the ALJ must determine the
claimant's residual functional capacity
("RFC"). 20 C.F.R. §§ 404.1520(e),
416.920(e). RFC is defined as "the most a claimant can
do despite [her] limitations." Moore v. Astrue,
572 F.3d 520, 523 (8th Cir. 2009) (citing 20 C.F.R. §
404.1545(a)(1)). At step four, the ALJ determines whether the
claimant can return to her past relevant work, by comparing
the claimant's RFC with the physical and mental demands
of the claimant's past relevant work. McCoy v.
Astrue, 648 F.3d 605, 611 (8th Cir. 2011). If the
claimant can still perform past relevant work, she will not
be found to be disabled; if the claimant cannot, the analysis
proceeds to the next step. Id.
five, the ALJ considers the claimant's RFC, age,
education, and work experience to see if the claimant can
make an adjustment to other work in the national economy. 20
C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(v). If the claimant cannot
make an adjustment to other work, then she will be found to
be disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(a)(4)(v),
404.1520(a)(4)(v). Through step four, the burden remains with
the claimant to prove that she is disabled.
Brantley, 2013 WL 4007441, at *3 (citation omitted).
At step five, the burden shifts to the Commissioner to
establish that the claimant maintains the RFC to perform a
significant number of jobs within the national economy.
Id. "The ultimate burden of persuasion to prove
disability, however, remains with the claimant."
Meyerpeter v. Astrue, 902 F.Supp.2d 1219, 1229 (E.D.
Mo. 2012) (citing Warner v. Heckler, 722 F.2d 428,
431 (8th Cir. 1983)).
Court's role on judicial review is to determine whether
the ALJ's findings are supported by substantial evidence
in the record as a whole. Pate-Fires v. Astrue, 564
F.3d 935, 942 (8th Cir. 2009). In determining whether the
evidence is substantial, the Court considers evidence that
both supports and detracts from the Commissioner's
decision. Cox v. Astrue, 495 F.3d 614, 617 (8th Cir.
2007). As long as substantial evidence supports the decision,
the Court may not reverse it merely because substantial
evidence exists in the record that would support a contrary
outcome or because the Court would have decided the case
differently. See Krogmeier v. Barnhart, 294 F.3d
1019, 1022 (8th Cir. 2002).
determine whether the ALJ's final decision is supported
by substantial evidence, the Court is required to review the