United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
C. COLLINS UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
an action under Title 42 U.S.C. § 405(g) for judicial
review of the final decision of the Commissioner denying the
application of Shannon Marie Pettus (“Plaintiff”)
for Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under
Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
1381, et seq. Plaintiff has filed a brief in support
of the Complaint (Doc. 11), Defendant has filed a brief in
support of the Answer (Doc. 16), and Plaintiff filed a reply
brief (Doc. 17). The parties have consented to the
jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) (Doc. 11).
filed her application for SSI on April 12, 2012 (Tr. 126-31).
Plaintiff was initially denied on August 29, 2012, and she
filed a Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) on October 15, 2012 (Tr. 75-79,
83-85). After a hearing, by decision dated April 17, 2014,
the ALJ found Plaintiff not disabled (Tr. 22-35). On July 24,
2015, the Appeals Council denied Plaintiff's request for
review (Tr. 11-13). As such, the ALJ's decision stands as
the final decision of the Commissioner.
DECISION OF THE ALJ
determined that Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial
gainful activity since April 12, 2012, the filing date of the
application for SSI (Tr. 24). The ALJ found Plaintiff has the
severe impairments of pseudotumor cerebri,  papilledema,
headaches, and a learning disability, but that no impairment
or combination of impairments met or medically equaled the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1 (Tr. 25-28).
considering the entire record, the ALJ determined Plaintiff
has the residual functional capacity (“RFC”) to
perform medium work as defined in 20 C.F.R. § 416.967(c)
with the following limitations (Tr. 28). She is limited to
unskilled work, and she should avoid ropes, ladders, and
scaffolds (Id.). She should also avoid hazardous
heights (Id.). She should not work in an environment
with more than infrequent handling of customer complaints,
and she should not work in a setting that requires constant
regular contact with the general public (Id.). The
ALJ found Plaintiff had no past relevant work, noting that
her work as a dishwasher for 23 days in March 2012 did not
qualify as substantial gainful activity or as past relevant
work (Tr. 33). The ALJ found that there are jobs that exist
in significant numbers in the national economy that Plaintiff
can perform, including industrial cleaner, garment sorter,
and photo copy machine operator (Tr. 34). Thus, the ALJ
concluded that a finding of “not disabled” was
appropriate (Tr. 34-35). Plaintiff appeals, arguing a lack of
substantial evidence to support the Commissioner's
the Social Security Act, the Commissioner has established a
five-step process for determining whether a person is
disabled. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920, 404.1529. “If
a claimant fails to meet the criteria at any step in the
evaluation of disability, the process ends and the claimant
is determined to be not disabled.” Goff v.
Barnhart, 421 F.3d 785, 790 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting
Eichelberger v. Barnhart, 390 F.3d 584, 590-91 (8th
Cir. 2004)). In this sequential analysis, the claimant first
cannot be engaged in “substantial gainful
activity” to qualify for disability benefits. 20 C.F.R.
§§ 416.920(b), 404.1520(b). Second, the claimant
must have a severe impairment. 20 C.F.R. §§
416.920(c), 404.1520(c). The Social Security Act defines
“severe impairment” as “any impairment or
combination of impairments which significantly limits
[claimant's] physical or mental ability to do basic work
activities. . . .” Id. “The sequential
evaluation process may be terminated at step two only when
the claimant's impairment or combination of impairments
would have no more than a minimal impact on [his or] her
ability to work.” Page v. Astrue, 484 F.3d
1040, 1043 (8th Cir. 2007) (quoting Caviness v.
Massanari, 250 F.3d 603, 605 (8th Cir. 2001), citing
Nguyen v. Chater, 75 F.3d 429, 430-31 (8th Cir.
the ALJ must determine whether the claimant has an impairment
which meets or equals one of the impairments listed in the
Regulations. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(d), 404.1520(d).
If the claimant has one of, or the medical equivalent of,
these impairments, then the claimant is per se disabled
without consideration of the claimant's age, education,
or work history. Id.
the impairment must prevent the claimant from doing past
relevant work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(f),
404.1520(f). The burden rests with the claimant at this
fourth step to establish his or her RFC. Steed v.
Astrue, 524 F.3d 872, 874 n.3 (8th Cir. 2008)
(“Through step four of this analysis, the claimant has
the burden of showing that she is disabled.”). The ALJ
will review a claimant's RFC and the physical and mental
demands of the work the claimant has done in the past. 20
C.F.R. § 404.1520(f).
the severe impairment must prevent the claimant from doing
any other work. 20 C.F.R. §§ 416.920(g),
404.1520(g). At this fifth step of the sequential analysis,
the Commissioner has the burden of production to show
evidence of other jobs in the national economy that can be
performed by a person with the claimant's RFC.
Steed, 524 F.3d at 874 n.3. If the claimant meets
these standards, the ALJ will find the claimant to be
disabled. “The ultimate burden of persuasion to prove
disability, however, remains with the claimant.”
Young v. Apfel, 221 F.3d 1065, 1069 n.5 (8th Cir.
2000); see also Harris v. Barnhart, 356 F.3d 926,
931 n.2 (8th Cir. 2004) (citing 68 Fed. Reg. 51153, 51155
(Aug. 26, 2003)); Stormo v. Barnhart, 377 F.3d 801,
806 (8th Cir. 2004) (“The burden of persuasion to prove
disability and to demonstrate RFC remains on the claimant,
even when the burden of production shifts to the Commissioner
at step five.”). Even if a court finds that there is a
preponderance of the evidence against the ALJ's decision,
the decision must be affirmed if it is supported by
substantial evidence. Clark v. Heckler, 733 F.2d 65,
68 (8th Cir. 1984). “Substantial evidence is less than
a preponderance but is enough that a reasonable mind would
find it adequate to support the Commissioner's
conclusion.” Krogmeier v. Barnhart, 294 F.3d
1019, 1022 (8th Cir. 2002). See also Cox v. Astrue,
495 F.3d 614, 617 (8th Cir. 2007).
not the job of the district court to re-weigh the evidence or
review the factual record de novo. Cox, 495 F.3d at
617. Instead, the district court must simply determine
whether the quantity and quality of evidence is enough so
that a reasonable mind might find it adequate to support the
ALJ's conclusion. Davis v. Apfel, 239 F.3d 962,
966 (8th Cir. 2001) (citing McKinney v. Apfel, 228
F.3d 860, 863 (8th Cir. 2000)). Weighing the evidence is a
function of the ALJ, who is the fact-finder. Masterson v.
Barnhart, 363 F.3d 731, 736 (8th Cir. 2004). Thus, an
administrative decision which is supported by substantial
evidence is not subject to reversal merely because
substantial evidence may also support an opposite conclusion
or because the reviewing court would have decided
differently. Krogmeier, 294 F.3d at 1022.
determine whether the Commissioner's final decision is
supported by substantial evidence, the court is required to
review the administrative record as a whole and to consider:
(1) Findings of credibility made by the ALJ;
(2) The education, background, work history, and age of the