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Brown v. Berryhill

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

September 20, 2017

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

          MEMORANDUM

          ABBIE CRITES-LEONI, UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.

         Plaintiff Brenda L. 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 mental 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 decision of the Commissioner will be affirmed.

         I. Procedural History

         Brown filed an application for DIB on March 27, 2013, [2] claiming that she became unable to work on September 8, 2012, because of depression, attention deficit disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, fatigue, and bipolar disorder. (Tr. 159-60, 215.) Brown's claim was denied initially. (Tr. 89-93.) Following an administrative hearing, Brown's claim was denied in a written opinion by an ALJ, dated April 30, 2015. (Tr. 24-35.) 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 June 2, 2016. (Tr. 9, 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 “in determining Claimant's mental impairments did not equal listings 12.04, 12.06 or 12.08.” (Doc. 17 at 5.) Brown also argues that the ALJ erred “in failing to give more weight to treating doctor, Dr. Onik's opinion and treating CSS, Pamela Moller.” Id. at 11.

         II. The ALJ's Determination

         The ALJ found that Brown last met the insured status requirements of the Social Security Act on September 30, 2012, and did not engage in substantial gainful activity during the period from her alleged onset date of September 8, 2012, through her date last insured of September 30, 2012. (Tr. 26.)

         In addition, the ALJ concluded that Brown had the following severe impairments: attention deficit disorder (“ADD”), bipolar disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder. Id. The ALJ found that Brown did not have an impairment or combination of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of one of the listed impairments. (Tr. 27.)

         As to Brown's RFC, the ALJ stated:

After careful consideration of the entire record, the undersigned finds that, through the date last insured, the claimant had the residual functional capacity to perform a full range of work at all exertional levels but with the following non-exertional limitations: The claimant can perform simple, routine tasks. The claimant is limited to occasional changes in a routine work setting with only occasional contact with the public or co-workers.

         (Tr. 28.)

         The ALJ found that Brown's allegations regarding the extent of her limitations were not credible. (Tr. 30.) In determining Brown's RFC, the ALJ indicated that he was assigning considerable weight to the opinions of consultative psychologist Frank Froman, Ed.D.; and to the opinion of the state agency psychologist Mark Altomari, Ph.D., regarding Brown's limitations. (Tr. 33.) The ALJ accorded little weight to the opinions of treating primary care doctor Jan F. Onik, D.O.; and to the opinions of case worker Pamela Moller, CSS. Id.

         The ALJ further found that Brown was unable to perform past relevant work, but was capable of performing other jobs existing in the national economy, such as cleaner, kitchen helper, and laundry worker. (Tr. 34-35.) The ALJ therefore concluded that Brown was not under a disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, at any time from September 8, 2012, the alleged onset date, through September 30, 2012, the date last insured. (Tr. 35.)

         The ALJ's final decision reads as follows:

Based on the application for a period of disability and disability insurance benefits filed on March 27, 2013, the claimant was not disabled under sections 216(i) and 223(d) of the Social Security Act through September 30, 2012, the date last insured.

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 physicians.
4. The plaintiff's subjective complaints relating to exertional and non-exertional ...

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