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Brown v. Berryhill

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

September 12, 2017

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



         Plaintiff Robin Brown 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.

         An Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) found that, despite Brown's severe back impairment, 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 decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed.

         I. Procedural History

         Brown filed an application for DIB on January 13, 2014, claiming that she became unable to work due to her disabling condition on September 21, 2012, due to degenerative disc disease. (Tr. 230-31.) Brown's claim was denied initially. (Tr. 83.) Following an administrative hearing, Brown's claim was denied in a written opinion by an ALJ, dated June 26, 2015. (Tr. 11-20.) Brown 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 July 18, 2016. (Tr. 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, Brown argues that the ALJ erred “when determining Brown's RFC in that she erroneously discounted the well-supported opinion of Brown's treating physician, failed to otherwise support the RFC with substantial evidence, and did not properly consider Brown's subjective reports.” (Doc. 12 at 7.)

         II. The ALJ 's Determination

         The ALJ found that Brown meets the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act through December 31, 2017, and has not engaged in substantial gainful activity since September 21, 2012, the alleged onset date. (Tr. 13.)

         In addition, the ALJ concluded that Brown had the following severe impairments: degenerative disc disease. Id. The ALJ further found that Brown's medically determinable impairment of major depressive order was not severe. (Tr. 15.) The ALJ concluded that Brown did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments. Id.

         As to Brown'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 light work as defined in 20 CFR 404.1567(b), meaning that the claimant is capable of lifting or carrying 20 pounds occasionally, lifting or carrying 10 pounds frequently, sitting for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday, and standing or walking for 6 hours in an 8-hour workday. The claimant is capable of twisting, climbing, balancing, stooping, crawling, crouching and kneeling for up to 1/3 of the day.

(Tr. 15.)

         The ALJ found that Brown's allegations regarding her limitations were not entirely credible. (Tr. 16.) In determining Brown's RFC, the ALJ indicated that she was assigning “no weight” to the opinion of treating physician Jeffrey Faron, M.D., regarding Brown's limitations. (Tr. 17.)

         The ALJ further found that Brown was capable of performing past relevant work as a security guard and assistant collections supervisor. (Tr. 18.) The ALJ made the alternative finding that there were other jobs existing in the national economy that Brown was capable of performing, such as small parts assembler, unskilled cashier, and laundry worker. (Tr. 18-19.) The ALJ therefore concluded that Brown has not been under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from September 21, 2012, through the date of the decision. (Tr. 20.)

         The ALJ's final decision reads as follows:

Based on the application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits filed on January 12, 2014, the claimant is not disabled under sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act.


         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 ...

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