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 Jeanie Ford-Williams (“Plaintiff”)
for Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) and
Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) under Titles
II and XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§
401, et. seq. and §§ 1381, et.
seq. Plaintiff has filed a brief in support of the
Complaint (Doc. 17), Defendant has filed a brief in support
of the Answer (Doc. 23), and Plaintiff has filed a reply to
the Answer (Doc. 25). The parties have consented to the
jurisdiction of the undersigned United States Magistrate
Judge pursuant to Title 28 U.S.C. § 636(c). (Doc. 10).
filed her application for DIB on December 12, 2013, alleging
an onset date of November 22, 2013. (Tr. 169-77). Plaintiff
was initially denied for DIB on February 14, 2014, and she
filed a Request for Hearing before an Administrative Law
Judge (“ALJ”) on March 4, 2014. (Tr. 79-85).
Plaintiff also applied for SSI on April 21, 2015 and her
application was escalated to the ALJ level with
Plaintiff's application for DIB. (Tr. 33, 193-98, 273).
The ALJ conducted a hearing on April 23, 2015. (Tr. 30-64).
After the hearing, by decision dated May 4, 2015, the ALJ
found Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 12-29). On June 3, 2016,
the Appeals Council denied 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
found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity since November 22, 2013, the alleged onset date.
(Tr. 17). The ALJ found Plaintiff has the severe impairments
of migraines and anxiety disorder, but that no impairment or
combination of impairments meets or medically equals the
severity of one of the listed impairments in 20 C.F.R. Part
404, Subpart P, Appendix 1. (Tr. 17-18).
considering the entire record, the ALJ determined Plaintiff
has the Residual Functional Capacity (“RFC”) to
perform light work with the following limitations. (Tr. 19).
Plaintiff is limited to lifting up to 20 pounds occasionally
and 10 pounds frequently. (Id.). She is limited to
standing or walking for up to six hours of an eight hour
workday and to sitting for up to six hours of an eight hour
workday. (Id.). Plaintiff cannot climb ropes,
ladders, or scaffolds. (Id.). She should avoid
exposure to work hazards like unprotected heights or
dangerous moving machinery. (Id.). Plaintiff is able
to understand, remember, and carry out short, simple
instructions consistent with unskilled work. (Id.).
She can tolerate brief, occasional contact with coworkers and
supervisors, and minimal, superficial contact with the
general public. (Id.). The ALJ determined that
Plaintiff is not able to perform any of her past relevant
work, that there are jobs that exist in significant numbers
in the national economy that Plaintiff can perform, including
folding machine operator, garment sorter, and collator
operator. (Tr. 24-25). Therefore, the ALJ found Plaintiff not
disabled. (Tr. 25). Plaintiff appeals, arguing substantial
evidence does not 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 ...