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Pejmanovic v. Berryhill

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

April 27, 2017

NANCY A. BERRYHILL, [1] Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Defendant.



         This is an action under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial review of the Commissioner of Social Security's final decision denying Zahida Pejmanovic's (“Plaintiff”) application for disability insurance benefits under Title II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 401, et seq. and Supplemental Security Income under Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1381, et seq.

         I. Background

         Plaintiff filed an application for disability insurance benefits on June 25, 2013, alleging disability beginning January 15, 2010. After her application was denied at the initial administrative level, she requested a hearing before an administrative law judge (“ALJ”). Following a hearing on September 30, 2014, the ALJ issued a written decision on October 10, 2014, finding that Plaintiff had the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform her past relevant work and was thus not disabled under the Act. Plaintiff's request for review by the Appeals Council was denied on December 17, 2015. Thus, the decision of the ALJ stands as the final decision of the Commissioner. See Sims v. Apfel, 530 U.S. 103, 107 (2000). In her appeal of the Commissioner's decision, Plaintiff challenges the ALJ's RFC and credibility determinations.

         II. Facts [2]

         Plaintiff is forty-nine years old with an eighth grade education (Tr. 28-29). She has worked in a laundry (Tr. 41) and as a bottle packer (Tr. 43). Plaintiff alleges disability due to severe abdominal pain that at times causes her to lose consciousness (Tr. 29-30). She testified that she frequently left work early or been absent as a result and had not been called back to work after January 15, 2010, her alleged onset date (Tr. 29-30, 41-42). Plaintiff was receiving medical treatment at that time but stopped prescribed medication due to adverse side effects of throat and neck discomfort (Tr. 30-31). She did not receive further medical treatment until 2012 due to a loss of medical insurance (Tr. 31). Plaintiff was prescribed medication for stomach pain as well as shoulder and spine pain (Tr. 31). She was also prescribed medication for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, depression and anxiety (Tr. 32). Her medications caused her to vomit at times and she generally did not feel well (Tr. 32).

         Plaintiff typically went to bed at midnight and was up at 5 a.m. (Tr. 33). She wakes frequently during the night because she has bad dreams; however, she never naps during the day (Tr. 33). She did little at home but walk through the house because of the pain she experiences in her right shoulder and arm. It was her testimony that she has had this pain for four or five years, but it has recently become worse (Tr. 33-34). She does not wear a brace or any other supportive device on her arm, back or legs (Tr. 34). Plaintiff described some difficulty showering and doing household chores, but stated she was able to dress and tie her shoes (Tr. 35). She had a car and drove short distances (Tr. 39). She also walked short distances as needed. Plaintiff rarely left home other than to shop or go to the doctor (Tr. 34-35), and socialized only with family (Tr. 40). She said she could not stand or walk for more than perhaps 30 minutes due to pain and dizziness and nausea (Tr. 36-37). She had vomiting episodes 3-4 times per day (Tr. 37). She would often have a headache and need to sit and rest (Tr. 37). She is very anxious and had difficulty starting and finishing tasks such as washing dishes (Tr. 38). When she baby-sits for her granddaughter, someone is always in the house with her. Her anxiety had been ongoing at least 20 years with traumatic recollections of war in her home country, Bosnia (Tr. 37-38, 41).

         III. Standards

         The 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. Johnson v. Astrue, 628 F.3d 991, 992 (8th Cir. 2009). “Substantial evidence is that which a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” Id. (citations omitted). The court may not reverse 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).

         To determine whether the ALJ's final decision is supported by substantial evidence, the Court is required to review the administrative record as a whole and to consider:

(1) The findings of credibility made by the ALJ;
(2) The education, background, work history, and age of the claimant;
(3) The medical evidence given by the claimant's treating physicians;
(4) The subjective complaints of pain and description of the claimant's physical ...

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