United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
CRITES-LEONI UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE
Paula Renee Chapman 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, and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the
Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) found that, despite
Chapman's severe physical and 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.
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
contained in the parties' briefs and is repeated here
only to the extent necessary.
following reasons, the decision of the Commissioner will be
filed an application for DIB on March 25, 2013, claiming that
she became unable to work due to her disabling condition on
May 31, 2012. (Tr. 168-79.) On September 8, 2014, Chapman
filed an application for SSI, with the same alleged onset of
disability date. (Tr. 211-17.) She claimed that she was
unable to work due to a torn rotator cuff, edema, arthritis,
migraines, neuropathy, insomnia, depression, and anxiety.
(Tr. 235.) Chapman's claims were denied initially. (Tr.
74.) Following an administrative hearing, Chapman's
claims were denied in a written opinion by an ALJ, dated
March 4, 2015. (Tr. 10-22.) Chapman then filed a request for
review of the ALJ's decision with the Appeals Council of
the Social Security Administration (Tr. 5), which was denied
on April 13, 2016 (Tr. 1-3). Thus, the decision of the ALJ
stands as the final decision of the Commissioner.
See 20 C.F.R. '' 404.981, 416.1481.
instant action, Chapman delineates ten separate claims of
error by the ALJ. Some of these claims overlap, and can be
summarized as follows: (1) errors in assessing Chapman's
credibility; (2) errors in weighing the medical opinion
evidence; (3) errors in determining Chapman's RFC; and
(4) errors at step five of the sequential evaluation.
The ALJ's Determination
found that Chapman meets the insured status requirements of
the Social Security Act through December 31, 2016, and has
not engaged in substantial gainful activity since May 31,
2012, the alleged onset date. (Tr. 12.)
addition, the ALJ concluded that Chapman had the following
severe impairments: mild degenerative disc disease of the
thoracic spine, obstructive sleep apnea, obesity, major
depressive disorder, and panic disorder. Id. The ALJ
found that Chapman did not have an impairment or combination
of impairments that meets or medically equals the severity of
one of the listed impairments. (Tr. 14.)
Chapman's RFC, the ALJ stated:
After careful consideration of the entire record, I find that
the claimant has the residual functional capacity to perform
a restricted range of sedentary work as defined in 20 CFR
404.1567(a) and 416.967(a) in that she can lift 10 pounds
occasionally and less than 10 pounds frequently. She can
carry 10 pounds occasionally. She can sit for up to 6 hours
in an 8-hour workday and stand or walk for 2 hours in an
8-hour workday. She can occasionally climb ramps or stairs,
but never ladders, ropes, or scaffolds. She can occasionally
stoop. The claimant should avoid more than occasional
exposure to unprotected heights or moving mechanical parts.
She is limited to understanding, remembering and carrying out
simple, routine, repetitive tasks, involving simple
work-related decisions with few, if any, changes.
found that Chapman's allegations regarding her
limitations were not entirely credible. (Tr. 16.) In
determining Chapman's RFC, the ALJ indicated that he was
assigning “significant weight” to the opinion of
consultative examiner John Demorlis, M.D., regarding
Chapman's physical limitations. (Tr. 17.) As to
Chapman's mental RFC, the ALJ indicated that he was
assigning “significant weight” to some of the
opinions of consultative psychological examiner, Heather
Derix, Psy.D. (Tr. 20.)
further found that Chapman was unable to perform any past
relevant work. (Tr. 21.) The ALJ noted that a vocational
expert testified that Chapman could perform jobs existing in
significant numbers in the national economy, such as final
assembler, document preparer, and table worker. (Tr. 22.) The
ALJ therefore concluded that Chapman has not been under a
disability, as defined in the Social Security Act, from May
31, 2012, through the date of the decision. Id.
ALJ's final decision reads as follows:
Based on the application for a period of disability and
disability insurance benefits protectively filed on March 25,
2013, the claimant is not disabled under sections 216(i) and
223(d) of the Social Security Act.
Based on the application for supplemental security income
filed on September 8, 2014, the claimant is not disabled
under section 1614(a)(3)(A) of the Social Security Act.
A. Standard of Review
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).
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
1. The credibility findings made by the ALJ.
2. The plaintiff's vocational factors.
3. The medical evidence from treating and consulting
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
6. The testimony of vocational experts when required which is
based upon a proper hypothetical question which sets forth
the claimant's impairment.
Stewart v. Secretary of Health & Human Servs.,
957 F.2d 581, 585-86 (8th Cir. 1992) (internal citations
omitted). The Court must also consider any evidence which
fairly detracts from the Commissioner's decision.
Coleman, 498 F.3d at 770; Warburton v.
Apfel, 188 F.3d 1047, 1050 (8th Cir. 1999). However,
even though two inconsistent conclusions may be drawn from
the evidence, the Commissioner's findings may still be
supported by substantial evidence on the record as a whole.
Pearsall v. Massanari, 274 F.3d 1211, 1217 (8th Cir.
2001) (citing Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1068
(8th Cir. 2000)). “[I]f there is substantial evidence
on the record as a whole, we must affirm the administrative
decision, even if the record could also have supported an
opposite decision.” Weikert v. Sullivan, 977
F.2d 1249, 1252 (8th Cir. 1992) (internal quotation marks and
citation omitted). See also Jones ex rel. Morris v.
Barnhart, 315 F.3d 974, 977 (8th Cir. 2003).