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 Shelly Land (“Plaintiff”) for
disability insurance benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act (“the Act”), 42
U.S.C. §§ 401, et seq., and Supplemental
Security Income (“SSI”) under Title XVI of the
Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1381, et
seq. Plaintiff filed a brief in support of the Complaint
(Doc. 15), and Defendant filed a brief in support of the
Answer (Doc. 20). The Parties have consented to the
jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(c) (Doc. 5).
filed her applications for DIB and SSI on June 5, 2013 (Tr.
131-39). Plaintiff was initially denied on July 31, 2013, and
she filed a Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) (Tr. 52-66, 74-75). After a
hearing, by decision dated January 16, 2015, the ALJ found
Plaintiff not disabled (Tr. 9-29). On April 7, 2016, the
Appeals Council issued a decision denying Plaintiff's
request for review (Tr. 1-6). 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 May 22, 2013, the alleged onset date
(Tr. 14). The ALJ found Plaintiff has the severe impairments
of fibromyalgia, degenerative disc disease, neuropathy,
carpal tunnel syndrome, obesity, depression and posttraumatic
stress disorder 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 (Id.). After considering the entire
record, the ALJ determined Plaintiff has the residual
functional capacity (“RFC”) to perform a light
work with the following limitations (Tr. 16). She would be
limited to jobs that do not require constant, rapid or
repetitive hand movements (Id.). She may do simple
work with occasional interaction with co-workers and members
of the general public (Id.). She retains the ability
to maintain attention and concentration for a minimum of
two-hour periods at a time, to adapt to changes in the
workplace at a basic level and to accept supervision on a
basic level (Id.). She can occasionally stoop,
kneel, crouch, or crawl; can never climb stairs, ramps,
ladders, ropes, or scaffolds; should avoid hazards such as
unprotected heights and dangerous machinery; would be limited
to simple, routine, repetitive tasks with simple work related
decisions; and can have only superficial interactions with
the general public and coworkers, meaning she should deal
with things instead of people (Id.). The ALJ found
Plaintiff is unable to perform any past relevant work, but
that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers in the
national economy that she can perform, including office
helper, shipping-receiving weigher, and folding machine
operator (Tr. 22-23). Thus, the ALJ concluded that a finding
of “not disabled” was appropriate (Tr. 23-24).
Plaintiff appeals, arguing a lack of substantial evidence to
support the Commissioner's decision.
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. 1996)).
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