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Gerard v. Berryhill

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

March 31, 2017

MICHAEL W. GERARD, Plaintiff,
v.
NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

          ABBIE CRITES-LEONI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         Plaintiff Michael W. Gerard 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 Gerard'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.

         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 decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed.

         I. Procedural History

         Gerard protectively filed his application for SSI on October 15, 2012. (Tr. 236.) He alleged that he became disabled on October 16, 2002, [2] due to problems with his right knee, right elbow, shoulder, back, and feet; chronic gout; enlarged prostate; and high blood pressure. (Tr. 236, 257.) Gerard's claims were denied initially. (Tr. 142.) Following an administrative hearing, Gerard's claims were denied in a written opinion by an ALJ, dated September 26, 2014. (Tr. 14-22.) Gerard 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 December 2, 2015. (Tr. 6, 1-4.) 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, Gerard first claims that the ALJ “failed to properly evaluate opinion evidence.” (Doc. 18 at 3.) Gerard next argues that the ALJ “failed to obtain evidence from a vocational expert.” Id. at 11.

         II. The ALJ's Determination

         The ALJ first stated that Gerard had not engaged in substantial gainful activity since his alleged onset date of October 15, 2012. (Tr. 16.)

         The ALJ concluded that Gerard had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease of the cervical spine; degenerative disc disease of the lumbar spine; gout; arthritic changes to both feet; and right elbow heterotopic ossification.[3] Id. The ALJ found that Gerard 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. 17.)

         As to Gerard'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 the full range of light work as defined in 20 CFR 416.967(b).

Id.

         The ALJ found that Gerard's allegations regarding his limitations were not entirely credible. (Tr. 18.) In determining Gerard's RFC, the ALJ indicated that he was assigning “little weight” to the opinion of treating physician Ana Danielyan, M.D. (Tr. 20.) The ALJ assigned “some weight” to the opinion of state agency medical consultant Kenneth R. Smith, M.D. Id.

         The ALJ further found that Gerard has no past relevant work. Id. The ALJ applied the Medical-Vocational Guidelines to find that there were jobs that exist in significant numbers in the national economy that Gerard can perform. (Tr. 21.) The ALJ therefore concluded that Gerard has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, since October 15, 2012, the date the application was filed.

         The ALJ's final decision reads as follows:

Based on the application for supplemental security income protectively filed on October 15, 2012, the claimant is not disabled under section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act.

(Tr. 22.)

         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 eCourt 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 physicians.
4. The plaintiff's subjective complaints relating to exertional and non-exertional activities and impairments.
5. Any corroboration by third parties of the plaintiff's impairments.
6. The testimony of vocational experts when required which is based upon a proper hypothetical question which sets forth ...

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