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 Mark Baldwin (“Plaintiff”) for
Disability Insurance Benefits (“DIB”) under Title
II of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 401,
et. seq. Plaintiff has filed a brief in support of
the Complaint (Doc. 20) and Defendant has filed a brief in
Support of 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).
filed his application for DIB on May 9, 2013, alleging an
onset date of March 9, 2012. (Tr. 227-33). Plaintiff was
initially denied on August 19, 2013, and he filed a Request
for Hearing before an Administrative Law Judge
(“ALJ”) on August 30, 2013. (Tr. 169-75). The ALJ
conducted a hearing on April 8, 2014. (Tr. 123-53). After the
hearing, by decision dated November 20, 2014, the ALJ found
Plaintiff not disabled. (Tr. 20-37). On February 22, 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
determined that Plaintiff meets the insured requirements of
the Social Security Act through December 31, 2017. (Tr. 25).
The ALJ also found that, although Plaintiff alleged an onset
date of March 2012, Plaintiff engaged in substantial gainful
activity until October 2012. (Id.). However, the ALJ
found Plaintiff has not engaged in substantial gainful
activity for a period of twelve months thereafter.
(Id.). The ALJ determined that Plaintiff has the
severe impairments of bi-polar I disorder and personality
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. 26).
considering the entire record, the ALJ determined that
Plaintiff has the Residual Functional Capacity
(“RFC”) to perform a full range of work at all
exertional levels, but with the following non-exertional
limitations. (Tr. 27). Plaintiff is limited to unskilled work
involving no more than occasional contact with supervisors,
coworkers, or the public; no more than occasional changes in
the work environment; and no more than occasional use of his
own independent judgment. (Id.). Because of
Plaintiff's limitations, the ALJ determined Plaintiff is
unable to perform any of his past relevant work. (Tr. 33).
However, the ALJ found Plaintiff is able to perform jobs that
exist in significant numbers in the national economy
including sorter, laundry worker, and hand packager.
(Id.). Therefore, the ALJ determined Plaintiff had
not been under a disability, as defined in the Social
Security Act, from March 28, 2012 through November 20, 2014.
(Tr. 34). 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 ...